Nurses on the front lines: When patients attack

How Should You Respond to an Attack?
If you are attacked by a patient, there are always legal repercussions to consider. Melissa Thomas Goodson makes this astute observation: “I work on an Alzheimer’s unit. Being attacked by a patient is not uncommon. It just takes teamwork and trusting your staff to keep an ear out for trouble. What bothers me most is that while being attacked, if you aren’t careful and the resident bruises himself while beating on you, you’d better be able to explain how he got that bruise or the facility will accuse you of abuse.”

That doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to defend yourself. Jahna Dyer tells the most important lessons she learned after a life-threatening attack: “Always leave yourself an out, and never forget that you are human, too. The patient is important, but so is the nurse.”

Being trained and prepared to defend yourself appropriately is always a good idea. Nurse Betty Reckling recounts how she escaped a tight situation: “I recently had a patient trap me in a room and threaten to break my arm, on which he had a very firm grip. Fortunately, I had nonviolent defensive training in a former job and was able to use this to get out of his grip and get out of the room!”

Next: How Do Nurses Feel After an Attack?

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