Different setting, same violence against a nurse

Two weeks ago, I posted the story of an emergency room nurse at a center city hospital, who was attacked by a patient. Today, a similar tale from a different setting - a 130-bed suburban psychiatric hospital.

This story is about a nurse with 37 years of experience, who has practised as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) at a doctor’s office, a nursing home, and a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility. For the past 6 years, she has worked at the psychiatric hospital. 

“I was working in a close observation unit, like an ICU [intensive care unit] for the most psychotic, most in need," she says. "A young patient asked me to use the phone, but it wasn’t phone hours. He had a long history of adolescent dysfunction, but I couldn’t see it coming … he followed me into the closet and clobbered me.”

The attacker punched the nurse in the head and face several times before the staff could intervene.

She suffered hand and jaw pain, but the nurse's injuries were not life threatening. She was immediately evaluated at an urgent care setting, but did not miss any upcoming shifts. Feeling supported by her facility to seek care and place charges, she did just that.

Witnesses were subpoenaed and supported by her employer to attend the trial. The patient was convicted and committed for an undetermined length of time in a permanent psychiatric facility. 

The nurse has chosen to remain anonymous and also not reveal her employers name.

She spoke highly of her employer, explaining that she feels the hospital adequately equips nurses with protocols and mandatory training to prevent violent encounters.

“I have seen my co-workers bitten, punched, chairs thrown at them, “ she says. “When a psychiatric patient goes off, their adrenaline rush is so powerful. For instance, a 120-pound female can pull a toilet of the wall. We are so lucky no one has been killed, although I feel my hospital is doing well supporting nurses.”

The nurse offered five areas of advice for other nurses and their employers:

  • Offer post traumatic stress disorder counseling for all nurses involved in a violent encounter. Although she did not require this type of counseling, she believes it should be a standard policy for all nurses.
  • Press charges: “Psych patients … should be held accountable,” she says.
  • Come back to work when ready. It is a personal and traumatic event when an employee is physically assaulted. Make sure you are ready to return.
  • Be “hyper-alert”… always know your environment.
  • Implement mandatory violence prevention training for nurses, annually or more often. At her employer CPI (non-violence crisis intervention classes) are mandatory for all employees.

“If not for a moral reason than a practical one, it is much more cost-effective than dealing with multiple accounts of violence and staff on disability,” she says.

If you want to learn how to create a safer environment at work through CPI training classes visit: http://www.crisisprevention.com/Specialties/Nonviolent-Crisis-Intervention.

Please contact me if you are a nurse who has been a victim of workplace violence, and keep sending your feedback. These stories are too important keep buried.

Next: The head of a local hospital emergency department shares his story and offers advice.