How do I deal with a suicidal patient?
Per hospital policy, any patient who has the potential to cause harm to himself or someone else needs to be watched continuously. Whether it’s in the ICU where the nurse/patient ratio is low or in a room with a designated sitter, these patients are high-risk. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings. Granted, some suicidal patients have associated mental disorders ranging from depression to more severe schizophrenia that can make them out of touch with reality. But the caregiver’s top priority is to make sure the patients don’t cause harm to themselves—and also to be there for them in this time of need.
Let the psych people take care of that, you say? Well, most patients tend to remain closed off when speaking with the medical teams after such an event. And it often boils down to the fact that the caregiver who spends the most time with the patient will have an impact. That caregiver in many cases is you, the nurse.
Be a friendly ear. Let the patient voice his concerns and don’t be judgmental. You may not agree with his decisions, but you also have little concept as to what tribulations he’s going through. You could be the solution he’s looking for in his cry for help.
Nicole Lehr is a pediatric nurse. She can be described in three adjectives: content, thankful and fortunate. All credit for the aforementioned description can be given to the love she has for her profession as an RN. She graduated from University of Florida with her Bachelor’s in Nursing and moved to Atlanta to work at the Cardiac Stepdown Unit at Children’s — her dream job.
By Nicole Lehr