Nurses on the front lines: When patients attack

How Do Nurses Feel After an Attack?
Some nurses are rattled enough to seek out a different assignment after being attacked by a patient. Others find ways to shrug it off (but they never forget the experience). Laughter is sometimes the best coping mechanism in situations where no one was hurt. Nurse Angie Maxwell Pemberton tells her story about getting attacked as more humorous than frightening: “I had a little lady with dementia beat me over the head with her catheter that came apart…urine flying everywhere. Coworkers were laughing so hard and dodging urine to stop her.”

Whatever the outcome, sudden acts of violence do leave their mark. Nora Breuer points out that everyone who witnesses an attack is impacted: “As a psychiatric nurse, I have had it happen to me several times. It’s very frightening for everyone, including the other patients.”

One thing that most nurses have in common is compassion for their attacker. They understand that patients who assault nursing staff are usually acting out of fear and disorientation rather than any desire to cause harm. In fact, many of the patients mentioned above later apologized profusely when they were calmer and realized what they had done.

Do you have any “war stories” to tell from your life as a nurse? What’s your advice for dealing with dangerous situations? Let us know in the comments section.

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