should psych patients be held accountable?

  1. I work at an secure care adolescent psych unit. I was exposed to HIV infected blood by a patient who intentionally dug her finger nails into my arm when she had blood on them. I want to press charges but the county attorney will not accept the charges because she is a patient and I should consider this a hazard of working in this field. Am I wrong in wanting her to be held accountable.

    [This message has been edited by psychnurse01 (edited January 25, 2001).]
    •  
  2. 17 Comments

  3. by   rjay
    I'm not sure about the policies for where you work but I work on a ward with mentally disturbed offenders - most of which have personality disorders. I was working when a staff member was physically assaulted in an unprovoked incident. The staff member was strongly encouraged to press charges for assault even though the possiblity of the pt being given any kind of sentence or 'punishment' from the courts was not likely. Given that the pt in your case assaulted you I think you should press charges. Good luck!
  4. by   oramar
    I had two reactions to your post. Number one is that I feel bad for you because I know this must be hard on your nerves. Number two is that this county attorney's remarks were another form of nurse abuse. If this patient did the same thing to a lawyer,judge or cop she would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Unfortunately the nursing profession does not have the same prestige as the those other profession and we are not given equal treatment under the law. This "Oh well, she only attacked a nurse, not like it was anybody important or anything" attitude is unacceptable. Where ever you live every nurse in town should go and picket the county bldg. If you were in Pittsburgh I would meet you with my sign. Pressure your managment to support you, call a TV station, call a reporter or radio station if managment does not give you support.

    [This message has been edited by oramar (edited January 25, 2001).]
  5. by   oramar
    Originally posted by oramar:
    I had two reactions to your post. Number one is that I feel bad for you because I know this must be hard on your nerves. Number two is that this county attorney's remarks were another form of nurse abuse. If this patient did the same thing to a lawyer,judge or cop she would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Unfortunately the nursing profession does not have the same prestige as the those other profession and we are not given equal treatment under the law. This "Oh well, she only attacked a nurse, not like it was anybody important or anything" attitude is unacceptable. Where ever you live every nurse in town should go and picket the county bldg. If you were in Pittsburgh I would meet you with my sign. Pressure your managment to support you, call a TV station, call a reporter or radio station if managment does not give you support.

    [This message has been edited by oramar (edited January 25, 2001).]
    I keep trying to post a link to an article that gives good info about work place violence as it relates to healthcare. I have not been having much luck. I also want to remark that telling a nurse that being assulted is part of her job is like telling a rape victim she deserved it because she was out alone after dark., http://www.nurseweek.com/features/99-8.violence.html, if this does not work try this and scroll down., http://florenceproject.org/articles1.shtml

    [This message has been edited by oramar (edited January 25, 2001).]

    [This message has been edited by oramar (edited January 25, 2001).]

    [This message has been edited by oramar (edited January 25, 2001).]
  6. by   mimiRN
    Dear Phychnurse01: I just found this BB and read your message. On Jan 31st I was assaulted by a female patient. I was hit in the face with a fist in an unprovoked attack. Pt. was angry about her elevated BP and took it out on me. I too was told I couldn't press charges. I kept pursuing it. I contacted nurseadvocate website which is devoted to this issues and got some advice. Went to Risk management at hospital and also to our chief of security. They told me I could indeed press charges. This past Monday I went to the city police station and was told to forget it as I had no case. They said it was a hospital problem . They also said I couldn"t do anything because it was a psych patient. I argued with the officer for 20 min. to know avail. He did not even fill out a preliminary report. He said I could check with the District Mag. office up the street. I went there next and was told they could do nothing without a letter from the police. I drove home crying out of total anger and frustration. I again called risk management who contacted security chief. He called me and then HE called the police. Surprise Surprise: He was given a totally different story and called me back to say all I had to do was call 911 and ask to speak with an officer. I did this on Friday and within 20 minutes an officer came to the hospital and took my report. They said the charge would be harrassment as I probably will have no permanent injuries. I didn't care what the charges were. I just wanted to make a point that even if my hospital won't adopt a 0 tolerance stance, at least I would. I do not know what the outcome of this wil be but I feel that what I did was not just for me but for all the other frustrated nurses on my unit and across this country. PLEASE don't give up. I posted my story on the NurseSpectrum web site nurse to nurse (www.nursingspectrum.com) and had 30 responses of support. GOOD LUCK.
  7. by   fergus51
    Here there is only one question: Did the person intentionally commit an act of violence knowing that violence is wrong? Unless they are dellusional they can be prosecuted. Being emotional doesn't excuse violence and this behavior PISSES me off. Did you all know that the profession of nursing has the second highest rate of on the job injuries and assaults (second to COPS!)? It is sick that this is tolerated.

    HAZARD OF WORKING IN THE FIELD?!! So can we attack police officers and get away with it because that's a hazard of their job? I seriously doubt it. You hit a cop you go to jail, why isn't it the same thing for nurses?
  8. by   Cdn_Psych
    I've been a psych nurse for over 20 years. I used to work in a provincial psychiatric hospital and assaults on nurses and other patients there were quite common. It was clear that patients could attack and injure nurses repeatedly and it was unlikely anything (other than meds & restraints) would be done about it. It was a very different story if they just threatened (let alone attacked) a doctor or administrator - they would be very quickly moved to a secure facility.

    I now work in a general hospital inpatient psychiatric unit with a similar population except fewer schizophrenics, more mood disorders and more personality disorders. It is the safest unit I have ever worked on. I'm convinced the difference is that we have excellent psychiatrists who make it very clear to the aggressive types that such behaviour will not be tolerated, that they are in control of their actions, and that we will not hesitate to call police and press charges against those who assault staff or other patients. This is followed up with action and I have seen patients discharged and taken into secure custody by the police right from the ward. We see far less acting out on the ward as a result. It is a far safer environment for everyone - staff and patient alike.

    The key things are not being willing to accept antisocial behaviour on the unit, the message to the troublesome PD's that they are in control and responsible for their actions, combined with solid support from our psychiatrists.
  9. by   mary0507
    If you have malpractice insurance I would call them and ask one of their attornys their opion. The stae hospital in Wernersville PA have had several nurses press charges against pt.'s. These people are mentally ill they are not stupid. Other facilities have had nurses press charges against pt.'s especially since a nurse was killed in a facility. I have called the police to come onto a unit when we could not control the adolescent unit. They settle down quickly when they see the police. I would not recommend calling the police but this was a small unit and we did not have enough staff and or security to handle the unit. Psych nurses take a lot of abuse verbal and physical.
  10. by   Shar2
    I think the prosecutor was wrong in this case. ANY person who exposes another person, whether that person is a nurse, or someone on the street, to AIDS should be held accountable and charges should be filed. We had this happen where I worked in Florida, and the psych patient infected a lab tech. They were prosecuted, but unfortunately I don't know the results as I moved from the area right after it happened. I do know the tech became ill and had to go on disability. I also think that healthcare professionals should be given the information if a patient has AIDS so they can take proper precautions. Universal precautions isn't always enough.

    Shar2
  11. by   Bjo
    I absolutely agree with Pat RN. If you don't have malpractice insurance GET IT NOW. There are clauses in my policy about assault and the insurance is less than $100 per year. Check it out on this site http://www.nso.com. Hope this link works for you. If not type in Nurses service organization in your browser. You worked too hard to get your license to take this kind of abuse.
    Bobbi Jo
  12. by   mamabear
    I've been in psych nursing for 15 years and have been injured many times. The latest event resulted in my needing several sutures to my head and a humongous hematoma on my hip. Yes, they should be held accountable. Will they? Hah!!
  13. by   jimminy
    You can press charges on any aggressive patient that causes harm to you. However, getting the DA to accept the case is another matter. According to them, if the patient has a true psyc. history, they will not accept the case because that person is unable to decide right or wrong!!!!!!!!!!!!! Well, we have citizens that have a true psyc history that function in everday society. We just had a nurse that was able to put an HIV patient , that intentionally bit her drawing blood, in prison for one year. The DA originally did not want to take the case because the patient had a history of schizo. What helped this case was the documentation (that word again). During the original assessment, the nurse had noted the history but wrote in her notes that patient denied AVH, no SI, no HI. C/O left arm pain only after a minor MVA. The patient was angry because of the type of pain meds given. He wanted demerol, not toradol.
    The DA finally agreed, but wanted to agree to ten days only in jail on a plea bargain. This nurse held her grounds and won.

    I do not know the laws regarding this. It seems to be just the DA's opinion.
  14. by   clive
    I can understand your anger,but I don't think that psych patients can be heald accountable for their actions. I guessit is true that tour accident was a work related incident. It is hard to say what really should happen here. Has this pt. ever done anything like this before? Is the patient usually overly agressive?

close