A woman who "looked and acted like she belonged in our institution" spent a couple of days wandering the restricted areas of a Boston hospital observing operations, attending patient rounds and, according to one report, assisting in the transportation of a patient to the recovery unit. The problem: She didn't belong there. Hospital officials say the woman was an imposter who infiltrated the OR by cleverly blending in with medical personnel.
Video footage reportedly shows 42-year-old Cheryl Wang gaining access to 5 ORs at Brigham and Women's Hospital over the course of 2 days in December 2016. Although she did not have an ID badge, Ms. Wang mingled with OR staff members who had valid ID badges and followed them into the OR during shift changes — a practice commonly known as "tailgating."
"She was wearing our scrubs, knew her way around, understood the hospital culture and terminology, and was familiar with people's names," hospital spokesperson Erin McDonough tells the Boston Globe. "Because of this, we let our guard down."
Ms. McDonough adds that Ms. Wang, a former surgical resident who had been dismissed from Mount Sinai St. Luke's Hospital in New York City, "did not touch, treat or provide care to a single patient."
Once identified as an intruder, Ms. Wang was escorted off the property, and hospital officials promptly posted her photograph near ORs and alerted its sister hospitals in the area. The next day, Ms. Wang allegedly showed up in a conference room at Massachusetts General Hospital for a seminar. When she was told to leave, she proceeded to Children's Hospital but was turned away by hospital officials.
Brigham officials learned that Ms. Wang had been reported to New York's state disciplinary board following her dismissal from the surgical residency program at Mount Sinai. They also said she forged recommendation letters that permitted her to shadow a Brigham surgeon 2 two days last September, and they believe she obtained the Brigham scrubs that helped her find her way into the OR 2 months later. While it's not known what motivated Ms. Wang, the Globe speculates that her desire to become a doctor inspired her actions.
The hospital said it has since strengthened its policy for allowing observers into its 47 ORs. Physicians sponsoring a visitor are now required to verify with a student's educational institution that the student is in good standing. In addition, the hospital said it plans to educate staff about the dangers of tailgating, which one security expert describes to the Globe as being "very difficult to prevent."
When reached by Outpatient Surgery Magazine, Brigham officials declined further comment.