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Nurse learns cost of doing a good deed

They ought to give her a medal. Instead, she got misused.

If this is how they run the show at the Erie County Home in Alden, somebody ought to be shown the door.

Joyce Diasparra was driving home two weeks ago after a tough shift. Diasparra is head nurse of Unit S, a wing with about 50 patients. She had worked until 8 p.m. -- five hours after her regular shift ended. She had just left when, through the darkness, she saw him, walking on Walden Avenue: a patient who was brought to the County Home after trying to kill his wife. He had sneaked out and climbed a fence.

Diasparra did not have a cell phone to call for help. She did not want to deal alone with a potentially violent man. Concerned about the safety of the patient and for anyone he encountered, she drove back to the nursing home to get help. She found a security guard, who jumped in her vehicle. They drove back, got the man into her SUV and brought him back safely.

Diasparra is 56, with a full, friendly face and a nurse's bedside manner. She got pats on the back from co-workers the next day for handling a tough situation.

The glow lasted until she was called in Oct. 22 by the County Home's director of nursing. Diasparra was reprimanded and suspended for a day without pay. According to the Disciplinary Action Report, she made a mistake by leaving the man on the road to go back for help. She should have, according to the nursing director, put him in the vehicle and brought him back on her own.

Diasparra was dumbfounded.

"With [the patient] being possibly unstable, I didn't trust that I would be able to get him in my truck and back safely," she said this week in the dining room of her tidy home in Lancaster. "I didn't want to endanger his life, or mine."

It is more than a week since the suspension. Diasparra still is upset.

"I feel like I was treated unfairly," she said. "I don't know how else I could have handled it."

It sounds to me as if she did the right thing. Backing her up is the security guard, Dave Bubar. "It would not have been wise for her to deal with [the patient] on her own," he said. "I had trouble getting the guy into the car, and I'm a big boy."

Diasparra has worked at the County Home for 15 years. She is a former Employee of the Year. The incident, in fact, underlines her dedication. She was off duty. She could have seen the patient on the road and ignored him. She could have gone back to the County Home and sounded the alarm, but stayed behind and let security deal with him. Instead, she went back with the guard and helped secure a potentially dangerous patient. For that, she was punished.

County Home spokesman Tom Quatroche said that there is more to the story but that he "could not provide further details" on a personnel matter. The suspension report notes that the patient was "upset" during the day and blames Diasparra for not dealing with him in a better way. Yet she alerted the nurses on the incoming shift and noted his agitation in the log book.

There are by-the-book regulations that might not have been followed to the letter. But in the big picture, Diasparra went above and beyond. For her trouble, she lost a day's pay and got chewed out by her boss. She will likely retire rather than go back to work for the same supervisor who suspended her.

Diasparra learned a lesson: No good deed goes unpunished.

I hope it is a lesson that, the next time something like this comes up, she remembers to forget.

e-mail: desmonde@buffnews.com

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