Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Perils of Working in an Asylum

In an unfortunate night at work early Sunday morning, two of my co-workers got hurt by an assaultive patient. A female nurse got kicked in the head while a male mental health worker jammed his right ring finger while trying to get control of the patient's leg. Because of that they had to be examined at the employee injury clinic. I don't know the results yet because the two hardy souls still reported back to work the next night. So far, there wasn't a visible bruise on the nurse's face which we hope stays that way. You should have seen the stunned look on her face after the kick. She just sat with her back against the wall with blank stare until the charge nurse asked her to get the restraints and set them up. The sprain on the mental health worker's finger might take longer to heal and I'm basing that on my own experience.
It was hard to determine what got the patient agitated in the first place but when they are paranoid, any voices they hear in their heads can set them off at any time. That was probably what happened in this case because all of a sudden, the patient started ripping things off the wall and kicking the wall. At this point no amount of verbal intervention helped. In order for us to keep the patient from hurting himself or damaging property, we had no choice but to take him down to the ground. It's the same as what the police call the swarming technique: three to five people each try to grab hold of a limb then put the patient against the wall or on the ground then hang on until the patient tires him or herself. Kinda like riding a bucking bronco. This is reality. In the movies where you see the protagonist beats up a whole bunch of bad guys? Well that just doesn't happen in real life. We try as much as possible to keep the patient from getting injured but as this case shows, the staff can get injured instead because the patient is the aggressor while the staff has to take protective and defensive measures. We of course have to attend annual classes on how to handle assaultive patients. However the role playing being done in class is in slow motion and often not necessarily the same as how the patient acts or moves. We just try our best to apply the techniques taught to us and hope that neither the patient nor we get injured.
These are the perils and risks we take while working in an insane asylum. Fortunately incidents like the one I mentioned above doesn't happen very often on the unit I work in. That, I can be thankful for. Lord knows that I’ve had my share of hits, grabs, hair pulls, bruises and soreness through the years as part of the job.

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