What was your scariest threat from a patient or family member

  1. Please share how your employee handled the situation and how you dealt with it.
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  2. 39 Comments

  3. by   Sour Lemon
    Quote from DesiDani
    Please share how your employee handled the situation and how you dealt with it.
    Interesting question ....but one that would pin-point my identity if I answered it.
  4. by   Ruby Vee
    "I'm going to fix all of her problems -- and yours too -- with this." (Shows me his .357 revolver)

    Manager excused the behavior but called security. Security called the police who searched his vehicle and found several long guns and several handguns. He was arrested and carted off to jail . . . but was back visiting again by the end of my shift. And I had to take care of the patient the next day as well. Security guards hung around until shift change (for them) and then stopped accompanying him on his visits because "He says he's not going to do anything."

    Another time, I was caring for a prisoner from a federal penitentiary. I was young and stupid; he was in his 70s and dying. He had two guards. Special permission was given for his son to visit. Son is also prisoner at the federal penitentiary and came with his own two prison guards. I was concentrating on de-clogging a feeding tube with my back to the door when I suddenly found myself thrown to the ground with a very large prison guard on top of me. A home-made machete clattered to the ground about an inch from my nose. Turns out the son was eager to hasten my patient's demise, and was about to go through me to get to him. After it was all over, the guard who tackled me (probably about the age I am now) kept telling me over and over that after forty years in corrections, he had never been so frightened in his life. He had never been so scared, he had never seen anything like it. I was pretty shook up myself. We took a few minutes to debrief each other while we drank a cup of coffee (probably not the best choice of beverage under the circumstances.) I understand there were some changes in the prison's policies for hospitalized patients after that, but I couldn't say what they were. I finished my shift with the same patients, and my manager put a write up in my file about grace under pressure or courage while under fire or some such.

    I've never turned my back on a prisoner, a prison guard or any visitor that made me feel "hinky" again. Served me well in later years when some out of control federal agents threatened an NP with their firearms.
  5. by   StrwbryblndRN
    I can't say I've ever been in a situation that was scary to me. Lucky or naive? Not sure.
  6. by   macawake
    Quote from DesiDani
    Please share how your employee handled the situation and how you dealt with it.

    Did you mean to write employee or employer? I'm just wondering if what you're interested in learning more about is the managers/supervisors/the bigwigs' perspective and how they've dealt with situations when a member of staff has received threats or if you're wondering if we (the underlings ) feel that we've been supported by our employers when we've been threatened?

    I haven't really received any threats that I considered truly scary in my nursing career. Because of a previous career, I'm quite accustomed to threats and have reached a point were the "heat of the moment" kind of threats don't faze me. Sometimes I think I've depleted my lifetime adrenaline supply I don't have the energy to get scared, I lean more towards annoyance or anger. Probably not entire healthy, but it is what it is.

    People who are under a lot of emotional strain, or those under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs can spout a lot of crap. Even people who are normally relatively well behaved can act out of character when they are scared, frustrated or experience loss of control (due to for example illness). I'm not saying that being sick and scared or being drunk/high makes it more acceptable to threaten others (it's not), my point is that I seldom perceive these threats as genuinely frightening.

    I have on more than one occasion responded with a "put a cork in it" to promises to slit my throat or similar, when I've felt that the person was merely acting out/trying to provoke a reaction and that they wouldn't even remember the threat they uttered the next day, or for that matter recognize me if we met again. I've only been genuinely scared on two occasions, neither have been during my nursing years. The reason they scared me was that I knew that they had the means and definitely compelling motivation to carry out their threats and the threats were more "long-term", rather than acute in nature.

    These days I seldom encounter threatening patients or family members but it did happen on a semi-regular basis when I worked in the ER. Most of the times I found that talking to and listening to the offender would be enough to calm down the situation. When that didn't work or wasn't a suitable/feasible approach to the particular situation we had to call security or the police. I have restrained and placed a patient under arrest after he attacked a physician and on three separate occasions (if I recall correctly) given witness testimony to the police when patients have physically attacked coworkers or threatened them in a manner that was serious enough to warrant a police report/arrest. I think it's important make it clear to those who really cross way over the line (and I'm not referring to patients with dementia or TBI or similar), that society doesn't tolerate that kind of behavior even if the perpetrator happens to be a patient.

    I have always felt that I work in a supportive/zero tolerance environment.
    I've never had a manager who thought that violence against healthcare professionals is acceptable and I wouldn't accept one who did.
  7. by   Agatha12
    Never had really scary situation. However we had a very difficult patient, manipulative, demanding, hypochondric. The patient was shouting, complaining about everything anyone did or said. I suspect this patient had a borderline disorder or other mental health issue. Some nurses refused to look after this patient. Doctors tried to get rid of her as soon as possible. ER staff had be alerted straightaway she reported to hospital. She was literally under any team in my hospital during her multiple admissions. I had panick attacks before going to work. During the first admission of the patient, our manager just accepted that we cant do much except providing the best care and she ignored any unfounded complaints about staff and treatment. After second admission, our manager worked on discharging the patient as soon as possible with trying to ban her from coming to our ward. She also gave us emotional support and assured that we dont have to worry about any disciplanary actions.
  8. by   Zyprexa
    A patient threatened to strangle me because he didn't get the opiates he asked the doctor for (patient was a heroin addict, already on Suboxone maintenance). We were calling security when the patient literally threw a chair at the nurses station window (which thankfully didn't break). We ran out because other patients weren't safe, and the patient tried to punch me in the face, screaming and cursing, banging on walls, trying to hit/kick. I have never seen such a terrifying face just inches from me. The patient apparently jumped out and used the chair as a diversion. Patient threatened to kill us, he said he was going to rip us apart and feed us to his dogs. Security arrived just then, and we put the patient in restraints/gave IMs. And no, the patient was not psychotic. Just an entitled addict who threw a fit whenever he didn't get his way. I saw him downtown a few months ago, he didn't see me but I was terrified.
  9. by   dream'n
    I can think of three off the top of my head, but I'll just share one. Out of nowhere, I had a patient start cutting himself up with a needle. He also threatened to jab anyone with the dirty sharp that got close enough to try and take it away. Scary situation, tough shift. Thankfully he was able to be talked down.
  10. by   That Guy
    Pt family member recently passed away in our ER. Family member was incredibly upset blaming us for the death. Said he was headed home to grab his guns to kill all of us. We called the cops and had them stake out the entrances. He showed up with a few weapons, loaded and ready to go. They got him before anything could happen.
  11. by   Julius Seizure
    Two things:

    Quote from Ruby Vee
    I finished my shift with the same patients, and my manager put a write up in my file about grace under pressure or courage while under fire or some such.
    Oh yay...a note in your file. That totally makes up for the almost dying! Did they give you a $1 off ticket for the cafeteria too?

    (I don't know what I wanted them to do. At least not make you care for the patient again, I guess. No, I want them to give you money or something. I don't know. But this seems so insufficient.)

    Quote from Ruby Vee
    I've never turned my back on a prisoner, a prison guard or any visitor that made me feel "hinky" again. Served me well in later years when some out of control federal agents threatened an NP with their firearms.
    WHAT? The federal agents did that???

    Ruby Vee, based on all the posts that I have read from you over the years, you have had the wildest career I have ever heard of.
  12. by   db2xs
    I had a person call me to ask about a patient (let's call him Mr. Smith), stating he was Mr. Smith's son. I said I was unable to give him information about any patients over the phone but he could try calling Mr. Smith's wife. He started screaming at me and asked me for my name. He said he was going to get me fired and slammed the phone on me. Mrs. Smith happened to be in Mr. Smith's room so I went in to ask if she had a son and she said yes. I told her she may be receiving a call from an irrate son but I can't give information over the phone. She flipped out on me and started screaming at me. I told my charge and we ended up having to call the house supervisor.

    That is the only time someone threatened me with anything. That was an interesting patient anyway. Mr. Smith punched me on another shift, but I don't consider that a threat. That is something entirely different.
  13. by   BCgradnurse
    I had a patient corner me in the parking lot after I had refused to prescribe narcotics for him earlier in the day. He threatened to hurt me if I didn't give him what he wanted. I told him I needed to get my prescription pad out of my bag, but dialed 911 while I pretended to do just that. He ran away, but was arrested the next day. Administration didn't think that was cause for dismissal of the patient. I left that job shortly thereafter.
  14. by   hppygr8ful
    I haven't been threatened much but I was cursed by an old Romanian lady who said that my "woman parts would dry up and I would never again know the love of a man.

    Hppy

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