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How do I deal with a violent patient?

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A trapped or wounded animal lashes out at those trying to free it from a trap. An elk whose antlers are trapped in brush may try to kick at its rescuers, who have only the best intentions in mind. Likewise, an injured patient can behave like a trapped and scared animal in cases where they may feel out of control or in cases of extreme pain. We’ve all encountered patients like these, and an encounter can affect the rest of our workday and even long after – for better or for worse.

Although it’s your responsibility to create a safe atmosphere and environment for the aggressive patient (and for every patient), you should do so only as long as you are not compromising your own safety. When you feel as though your own safety cannot be protected, then you should immediately leave the room and notify security. If for some reason you cannot remove yourself from the situation safely, you should do whatever you can (yelling, pushing the call button, etc) to get reinforcements in the room with you for support.

Some health care facilities, depending on type, location, and patient population, will be more prone to team members having to take care of violent patients than others. The facility owner should have adequately trained professionals to deal with those patients who become violent. A nurse is not a security guard. It’s not your job to physically engage a violent patient. Remember, you can’t help others get healthy when you are injured.

Be sure you are completely familiar with the specific policies for handling an aggressive patient of your facility. Know how to contact for help, when to contact them for help, and what to do immediately after an encounter with a violent patient has taken place. Oftentimes, it may be ideal to take another team member into a violent patient’s room with you every time you go in, if possible.

Never put yourself in harm’s way needlessly when it comes to managing an angry patient.

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