When A Patient Is Verbally Abusive
As nurses we have to be professional at all times. But what happens when a patient becomes verbally abusive? Where do you draw the line? Last night when I got report I was told that one of my patients was very rude and had made several nurses and respiratory therapists cry. At one point during his hospital stay they said that he had threatened several doctors and told several staff that he would kill them if they came near him.
Ok, so let me remind you that I am a float nurse. I don't know what my assignment for the night will be until I get to work. It's also a known fact that most units will give the more "challenging" patients to the float nurses. I don't mind though. I figure I can handle anything for a shift. The regular staff have to deal with it day in and day out.
So anyway, my "problem child" was a 20 year old male who had been in the hospital for 2 weeks who was pissed off at everyone and just wanted to go home. The year before he had been shot and was a quadriplegic as a result. Funny thing was, I recognized this patient. I had taken care of him before. I didn't remember him being rude but I knew he was very particular about his care.
When the nurse giving me report told me that he had cursed her out and called her the "B" word I just shook my head. All I could think was that I don't let my husband talk to me that way so I'll be damned if I let a patient talk to me like that. This was my inside voice talking. This was a tough one.
No one wants to lose their job because they lost their cool. But how far do you let a patient go? It's one thing if they are having mental status changes or under the influence of a drug. But when this is their regular dialogue…I don't know. Nursing is tough enough as it is, but when you get cursed out for doing your job, that's ridiculous.
I guess I should add that the patient was appropriate for me but I kept rehearsing in my mind what I would say to him if he decided to be verbally abusive with me. I would truly love to know how other nurses handle patients when they start cursing and making threats.
Being a float nurse is never dull. It has it's moments and sometimes I need to vent, but I love what I do.
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Tasha Nelson is a registered nurse who works the night shift at a large midwest hospital. She is also a total wellness enthusiast who firmly believes in the importance of taking care of yourself. A healthy mind, body, and spirit makes for a happy person. Isn't that what we all want?