Wednesday, July 20, 2016
Violence in Healthcare
The psych wards are no where as demanding as other floors, but they do require more standing and running around than my usual office setting. A physical toll is taken on my already fatigued body.
Plus, I fear that any oversight or error, no matter how tiny or inconsequential or non-existent, will be used to persecute me.
My latest assignment really scared me. A patient beat another patient because of a delusion, that the victim patient is dating me. The beaten patient had to be transferred out while I spent the rest of the shift avoiding the attacker and his non-stop threats to give me "some of what I deserve." Not only was he delusional about the affair, but also about his role as the physical enforcer of a perceived wrongdoing.
This is not the first time that someone else was attacked in lieu of me.
A while back a patient punched an orderly in his face so hard that he smashed into the wall for a second impact. With the psychiatrist, I listened to the patient's explanation and grew increasingly fearful: She attacked the orderly because I wanted her assassinated and hired him to do the deed. The psychiatrist asked if she was planning on attacking me. The patient replied that she would continue to "extinguish" the other assassins I had already lined up until they were all dead and then she would have only me to kill.
This is the really scary part of my job. You never know what is going on in someone else's mind. Most of the patients are actually not violent and are too disorganized to carry out any plan. But there are a handful who misinterpret reality and then physically defend themselves against a threat that doesn't actually exist- and they know how to land a punch.
I'm especially at risk because I am floated to different floors based on the needs of that day's short staffing, so I am not familiar with the patients and they are suspicious of the new person. Coworkers don't care for me or are openly hostile to me, indicating to would-be aggressors that I make an easy target.
Employees who are attacked get a raw deal. They have to use their own paid time off if they need to be out from work for physical or emotional reasons. The health insurance doesn't cover the medical treatment because it was work-related, but the employee health office usually plays down the injuries and clears the person to return to work immediately, so there is no worker's compensation benefit. People who protest are investigated and blamed for the incident for not reporting the patient's escalating behavior or for injuring the patient while trying to defend against the attack.
You can press criminal charges, but I have not heard of any case that went anywhere. The accused is already mentally defective by way of being court-ordered to involuntary psychiatric custodial care. The psychiatrist's notes about the incident include excusing words such as "delusional," "irrational," and "responding to internal stimuli."
It's a dangerous setting with staff that are not trained to handle physical aggression and a system that discards injured nurses.