exposure to hiv in the work place

  1. I am a RN in a adolescent psychiatric hospital. Last week I was cleaning a self inflicted wound on the arm of an hiv positive patient. She had cut herself the night before, and she had become angry at a staff member, so she removed her bandages and reopened the wound causing it to bleed. She was attempting to wipe the blood on a doctor. We were able to convince her to sit down and allow me to redress the wound. The doctor left me with the patient, I was applying pressure to the wound to control the bleeding. A direct care staff member said something to the patient that must have angered her and she struck out as the person closest to her. She dug her nails into my forearm breaking the skin. She had blood on her fingers at the time. I am now on the post exposure prophyllactic protocol. I had decided to press charges on this patient. She has a history of reckless behavior in regards to her status. She implied intent by telling me she knows she can go to jail for attempted murder if I contract hiv. I have since been told that the county attorney will not pursue the charges, because she is a patient in a psych hospital. I am very angry and want to push for her to be held accountable. Do you feel that I am justified? Please respond. Thank You

    [This message has been edited by psychnurse01 (edited January 24, 2001).]

    [This message has been edited by psychnurse01 (edited January 25, 2001).]
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  2. 5 Comments

  3. by   justanurse
    I am so sorry for what you are going through. My own personal feelings are that that patient should be held accountable for her actions. As we all should. Should she be allowed to hurt others just because she is ill? No. Unless she is declared incompetent, that attorney should press charges. Unfortunately, she would probably say, "poor me, I'm sick, no one wants to help me, and now I'm being punished for being ill." Which is probably a big hold up for him in pressing them.

    I'd keep after that gentleman to press charges. If it were me, I wouldn't give up without a fight of my own. But, then I don't seem to be having much luck with my own little fight.

    Good luck to you, & God bless you.
  4. by   eagleriver
    You may end up having to press charges against the County Attorney for not doing his job! I suppose you could drag this kicking, screaming monster child to the Attorney's office and see what happens.
  5. by   TracyRN
    I am very aware of the antics of the states attorney's office. You would be shocked at the number of cases that aren't prosecuted: child abuse, sex crimes against children to name two. Why? Because the state's attorneys are just as overwhelmed in their field as we are in ours. Doesn't make it right but they only want to fight the fights they think they can win: why invest time in anything else?

    Perhaps if you ask for support at this site and in your local area (and show the attorney the letters of support) you might be able to convince the attorney that this is something he needs to pursue.

    That girl attacked you knowingly with a deadly weapon. She should be prosecuted. I'd love to be on that jury!!
  6. by   sherryleetns
    Originally posted by psychnurse01:
    I am a RN in a adolescent psychiatric hospital. Last week I was cleaning a self inflicted wound on the arm of an hiv positive patient. She had cut herself the night before, and she had become angry at a staff member, so she removed her bandages and reopened the wound causing it to bleed. She was attempting to wipe the blood on a doctor. We were able to convince her to sit down and allow me to redress the wound. The doctor left me with the patient, I was applying pressure to the wound to control the bleeding. A direct care staff member said something to the patient that must have angered her and she struck out as the person closest to her. She dug her nails into my forearm breaking the skin. She had blood on her fingers at the time. I am now on the post exposure prophyllactic protocol. I had decided to press charges on this patient. She has a history of reckless behavior in regards to her status. She implied intent by telling me she knows she can go to jail for attempted murder if I contract hiv. I have since been told that the county attorney will not pursue the charges, because she is a patient in a psych hospital. I am very angry and want to push for her to be held accountable. Do you feel that I am justified? Please respond. Thank You

    [This message has been edited by psychnurse01 (edited January 24, 2001).]

    [This message has been edited by psychnurse01 (edited January 25, 2001).]
    My heart goes out to you, and I am so angery with the system that has made a patients rights a "permission slip" to treat healthcare workers any way they choose. My concerns also are with the hospital systems that allow this kind of assault to take place without taking a stand and protecting their most valuable assets. From a legal standpoint if the prosecuter is not willing to investigate maybe your only recourse is a cival suit against the prosecuter, the pt. and maybe even the facility you work for. I am probally the least "suit" oriented person on earth, but your health and well being were put in danger by this obviously wreckless adolesant. We as nurses deserve better, and you as a human should not have to give up your rights just because you choose nursing as your profession.
    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

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  7. by   JennieBSN
    I agree with the other nurse who said you should consider a civil suit. If it were me, I would go after the facility AND the patient, and maybe even the physician who left you unattended with a volatile patient that has a documented history of these kind of attacks. It's disgusting the way people are coddled and somehow exempt from punishment for heinous acts simply because they are "ill." Puleeze. You have rights, too. I'll pray for you as well. Good luck.

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