Hospice nurse admits having sex with married patient who had six months to live


Disciplined: Amber Van Brunt has lost her nursing license until 2030 after admitting to an affair with a married terminally ill patient

Disciplined: Amber Van Brunt has lost her nursing license until 2030 after admitting to an affair with a married terminally ill patient

A hospice nurse has had her licence revoked until 2030 after admitting to having a sexual relationship with a married patient.

Amber Van Brunt, 33, worked for Angelic Family Hospice in Shawnee and was caring for Chris Reiter, a 43-year-old Lou Gehrig’s disease sufferer, when their affair began.

While she has claimed their affair took place when she was off-duty and has appealed against the Oklahoma Nursing Board’s disciplinary action , the board says the relationship itself, not the timing, is the key issue.

‘The nurse is the professional in this situation. It is the responsibility of the professional to say no to the vulnerable patient,’ the board's attorney told an Oklahoma County judge.

‘The rules… do not mean simply while you are on shift; they mean during the entire time... you are assigned to the care of that patient, whether that is six days in the hospital or six months in hospice care or six years in a nursing home.’

Mr Reiter, a married father of two, had been told he had six months or less to live when Van Brunt began caring for him at his Shawnee home in November 2009.

The former Hershey Foods salesman died in May last year but had claimed to have been seduced by his nurse.

In a typed statement in March, wheelchair-bound Mr Reiter wrote that ‘Amber Van Brunt had inappropriate contact with me multiple times during regular hours nursing visits’.

He had denied having an affair with Van Brunt when asked about it by his wife Lisa, who told the nursing board she later found graphic messages on his computer that proved her suspicions.

WHAT IS LOU GEHRIG'S DISEASE?

  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosiis is a fatal neurodegenerative disease
  • ALS became widely known - and given another name - after New York Yankees legend Lou Gehrig contracted the disease in 1939
  • Gehrig's number 4 jersey was retired after ALS ended his life just two years later
  • ALS primarily effects the motor neurons, rather than sufferers' cognitive functions 
  • Rates of the disease's progress vary but sufferers in the late stages of the condition are typically unable to walk, stand or swallow with ease

She found the messages in March, after Mr Reiter had attempted suicide having learned from Van Brunt that she was pregnant with another man’s child.

Mrs Reiter told the board she felt ‘horrible, betrayed’ after her discovery.

‘After all of the things that I had been doing to take care of him and that this is what happened,’ she added.

The last exchange between Van Brunt and her patient came in March when she sent him a text message saying she was ‘knocked up’.

He wrote: ‘You broke my heart babe’, with Van Brunt later replying: ‘I wish it was u.’

Mr Reiter never returned home after his suicide attempt and died on May 21 in Illinois, with his wife implying to the board that he had starved himself to death.

Van Brunt has admitted to the ‘mistake’ of a sexual relationship with her patient, with her attorney Kimberley Stevens telling District Judge Patricia Parrish her client was inexperienced in her field and ‘fell in love’ with Mr Reiter.

She had only received her nursing license in October 2008 and can apply for its reinstatement in August 2030 if she pays a $5,000 penalty.

She will appear before an Oklahoma County judge on Wednesday to appeal for the reversal of what she calls a ‘miscarriage of justice’.