Trouble in the psych ward

Nurses and health professionals in psychiatric units face violence on the job. No one wants to stigmatize the mentally ill -- and that's the part of the awkwardness in these kinds of topics. But, there are people who, either because of delusions or intoxication or drugs or some vicious combo lash out at the people trying to help them. Patients and their families in all parts of a hospital can pose a threat to healthcare workers.

Psych nurse Jean McFadden, 61, of Wilmington, said she's seen so much violence, although she's never been punched herself.  "I haven’t taken a hard beating," said McFadden, who works with troubled children and youth at Crozer Chester Medical Center in Upland on the edge of the city of Chester. "I've gotten bruised, mainly pinched."  McFadden was one of a group of nurses I interviewed for a story in Wednesday's Philadelphia Inquirer about violence in the healthcare workplace. You can read it by clicking here. I also blogged a little about on Wednesday. Click here to read the previous post.

On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals held a daylong session on the issue.

In McFadden's unit, the young kids provoke the older ones and trouble ensues. One time, there was a strong young man with Downs syndrome who managed to bite three of her co-workers before he was restrained, she said. 

The hospital has security guards, but sometimes they are in the other building. The nurses have panic buttons embedded in their identification badges, which, in theory, should help, but McFadden said, "one the biggest problems is that our panic buttons don’t work." 

I asked the hospital about that and got this reply from Kathy Scullin, spokeswoman:





"We recently met with our Psychiatry Unit staff about concerns that panic buttons were not functioning properly. We are committed to maintaining a safe environment for our patients and our employees and confirmed inconsistencies in equipment performance. We have contacted the equipment contractor to fix the problem. In the interim, we have placed a security guard on our Psych Unit to assure the safety of our staff and our patients," she wrote.