Be an agent for change Blue!!! That is if you are still working there. Investigate the hospital's policies...and investigate incident history. Even a panic alarm that you can wear on your person...not around ur neck though. And I agree with Meriwhen. "Develop your spidey senses" and never ignore them. Terrible things can and do happen. However; luckily, not very often. Patients are people and you have to ask yourself, are you safe alone and isolated with anyone you don't know? Not really. But... I advise you to think about what you would do in dangerous scenarios. NOT obsessively. If you are really fearful it's not the job for you.
When I was a cute, young and new psychnurse (a long time ago) the male patients used to occasionally hit on me. I once had a male patient follow me into the linen room. He was between me and the door and he started to close it. I yelled LOUDLY; "Dont you dare close that door Malcolm!" and I kept on shouting in a stream of exaggerated oh-my-god don't you know that is a BIG no-no here? What are you thinking! Are you trying to get us both in trouble? Sheesh! etc... ad lib. All the while I was moving quickly past him to the door, then into the hallway. And of course he began to apologize which I gratiously accepted with a smile and said "I know you didn't mean anything. It's okay but never never do that again. Sneakin up on your favorite nurse like that about to give me a heart attack." Because the thing was...I couldn't show him vulnerability by freezing and being quiet- pretending we didn't both know he had me in a bad spot and he could've done something terrible... My loud and constant exclamations served to make noise so maybe somebody would hear me and they'd know what was going on by what I was saying, BUT also I caught him by suprise and distracted him, allowing me to push past him without having to fight or challenging him to a struggle. My immediate attitude of 'no harm no foul I know I'm your favorite nurse' gave him immediate resolution and became part of my style. I don't like for patients to think I'm uncomfortable with them even when I sometimes am. I allowed him the chance to play it off like it was an honest mistake so I didn't create an air of nervousness between us in the future. Even though he did try again later to "talk to me", you know like chat me up...then I said "Malcolm...stop it. I'm your nurse. Don't make me give you my lecture on appropriate talk." But I said it playfully and warmly. Not nurse ratchet-like. I don't want to anger anyone. People who like you are more likely to come to your rescue, but you HAVE to have clear boundaries.
I got in the habit of just blurting things in moments when I was really vulnerable. A very simple trick is to just say; "What are you about to do?!" If you jump the gun you can play it off..."ok thats acceptable, carry-on then" and laugh. If you are right and they were about to move in on you or even if somebody is about to swing...with the appropriate tone and volume OFTEN you will suprise them and change the course of the whole incident.
Once, I yelled from the doorway of the unit as I was coming in, "Hey! You aren't about to hit your doctor are you?!"... and I rushed over, coat on, purse on my shoulder; to the patient: "What happened? Why are you so mad?" taking the guy's fist like I was his loving mama, pulling him over to the alcove of chairs and sat us both down...."tell me what happened." He started pouring out all kinds of horrible stuff that evil psychiatrist (haha) lied about him, blah blah blah...and that evil psychiatrist bought me lunch that day. I have used my femininity as an alternate advantage. I am not big or strong and I was NEVER a fighter. If someone starts beating somebody up I probably cant physically overpower anybody- alone. But I am the queen of immediate distraction, which will hopefully at least buy somebody 3-5 extra seconds and hopefully they will use them well and get out of the way or get to the phone...or hit a panic button or whatever.
I've also been beat up too. Doesn't always work. But 3 times in 10 years in acute psych (pretty good) and never really really bad.
I GUESS my point is... you should develop a style, ways that work for you, (if you are going to stay in psych) so that if you are in less than ideal settings, under less than ideal circumstances, you can manage the situation. Because let's face it, I don't see any governors or administrators shouting "give the psych units more staff!" "Keep our mental health care workers as safe as possible!" It's really more about damage control after the fact, these days. So you're on your own. Good luck!