‘I was exhausted’: Boston nurse drives off top floor of hospital garage after shift


Nursing professionals called it a dramatic example of what can go wrong when healthcare workers don’t get enough sleep.

Boston Police say that early the morning of May 17th, an officer arriving at Faulkner Hospital saw a heavily damaged white Grand Cherokee, part of Faulkner’s parking garage guardrail missing on the top floor and an injured woman being attended to by paramedics.

Boston Fire told the officer that somehow the woman had driven the vehicle off the top floor of the garage.

A source tells Boston 25 News that an exhausted, on-call nurse fell asleep after putting the car into reverse. However the police report said the woman hit the gas instead of the brake and the car toppled off the garage front-first. The woman told police she had finished working her shift, but was on call beginning at 11 PM. She decided that rather than go home, she would sleep in her vehicle. Around 1 AM she moved to get away from lights — and that is when the incident happened.

An employee at Faulkner tells Boston 25 News the vehicle landed on a nearby shed before tumbling into a brushy area off to the side.

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Massachusetts Nurses Association spokesperson Joe Markman confirmed the driver was a nurse. While this incident was particularly dramatic, MNA said it is not uncommon for nurses to be involved in accidents on the way home — because of extreme fatigue brought on by long shifts, sometimes compulsory overtime and a lack of adequate help. (It is unknown what level of exhaustion this nurse was experiencing nor her working conditions.)

Rebecca Furst knows all about dealing with fatigue.

She recently retired after more than 40 years as a nurse — most recently at Newton-Wellesley Hospital.

“I really sympathize with the nurse and I can certainly understand how it happened,” said Furst. “I don’t think people realize how exhausting this job is.”

Furst said the public underestimates the physical and emotional toll on nurses just from doing their jobs: from moving heavy patients to the stress of engaging in life-saving procedures to coping with death.

“I mean, I have driven home from working nights with the window open, slapping my face to keep myself awake,” Furst said.

Nurses make up the largest portion of the U.S. healthcare team. But recent studies make clear that working conditions are having an effect on those numbers.

In fact, the American College of Nursing recently reported that a quarter of registered nurses plan to leave the profession, one way or another, in the next five years.

Mass General Brigham said they are investigating the incident — but could not confirm the injured party was an employee, let alone a nurse.

Furst said the incident is a cautionary tale that some things in nursing have to change.

“It was a 22-mile drive for me when I worked — and I was exhausted,” Furst said. “And you know you don’t want to get in an accident. There’s got to be a different way. There’s got to be a different way.”

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