Julie Weaver, a gastrointestinal nurse at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, was accused in a criminal complaint filed by prosecutors on Monday of one count of theft from a federal health care program.
The complaint asked that Weaver be summoned to appear before a federal magistrate in San Francisco on Oct. 27.
An affidavit filed by Veterans Affairs Department special agent Jason Root said hospital officials asked authorities to investigate after finding a used syringe in a clogged toilet.
Root said in the document that the investigation showed that Weaver had reported four times that she wasted patients' Demerol by accidentally dropping vials but that no other staff members saw the incidents.
Root said that when she was interviewed in August, Weaver allegedly admitted she had been diverting patients' unused Demerol for her personal use on a daily basis for six to eight weeks.
Weaver has been a registered nurse since 1987 and has worked at the VA hospital since November 2010, the affidavit said.
If she is convicted, the theft crime carries a possible maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if the stolen property is worth more than $100, or one year in prison if it is worth less than that.