Now, it seems common sense that no person is a punching bag… ever. Right? Well, we all know it does happen. What the general public may not know is just how often nurses are manhandled. And what little action is taken about.
In the past 10 years I have been kicked in the chin, bitten, punched, had my breasts grabbed, and had things thrown at me … all by patients. And each time it’s been a case of “Well, they’re confused, they don’t know what they’re doing.” So I’m expected to just take it. I’ve spoken with many other nurses and they’ve concurred that is always the attitude when they’re assaulted. (Yes, this kind of thing IS assault.) Not once have I spoken to a nurse who pressed charges against a patient for this or really in any way held them responsible for their actions. Virtually every nurse I’ve spoken to on this subject has said they would receive virtually no support from their hospital’s administration were they to do that.
Now, I’m not saying I think the 85 year old little woman who bit the hell out of my arm or the 75 year old man who kicked me in the chin should be arrested on assault charges and go to court and/or jail. I’m not saying that at all. But neither do I think I should be expected to sit back and just accept such behavior without any recourse. I don’t think any person should be expected to, yet nurses ARE. I don’t really know what the answer is to hold these people responsible for their actions. Or even just how much they should be held responsible when they truly are confused. I don’t believe confusion should excuse any violent behavior, but I do understand they’re not necessarily even aware of what they’re doing at the time. Neither is the person coming in for detox and coming off of coke or alcohol or meth. It’s a tough situation and I understand each side of it.
The closest I’ve ever come to charging someone at work with assault wasn’t a patient, but a physician. I had been going to answer a question for him and as I walked off to find the answer for some unknown reason he chose to grab my arm to stop me… hard enough that it left a bruise. I looked at his hand and then at his face and I have no idea what kind of expression I had on my face but he dropped his hand from my arm very, very quickly. (This particular physician had a reputation for being verbally abusive to the nursing staff, but had never done anything physical like that to me before.) I spoke to my nurse manager at length about it later that morning and she said she would support me should I choose to charge him with assault and agreed I would have every right to. I had the bruise on my arm and about 3 witnesses to this scene. Ultimately I chose not to, because I had to maintain a civil work relationship with him and he had realized he’d crossed a line. Maybe I wimped out and maybe I made the right decision… I ended up moving away a few months later and it didn’t matter any more.