Suicide in Psych Ward

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    Something terrible happened over the weekend at the hospital I do clinical at. A man (who just so happens to be a neighbor of mine) had been severely depressed over the farm accident death of his 11 year old son. He had a drinking prob and was too hung over to go to the field, so he sent his son out to do it. The tractor flipped and killed him instantly. He had been doing odd things (like having a beer party at his house 2 days after burying his son). The family had taken all the guns out of the house, but he was looking for a handgun from people.

    Anyhoo, the county police chaptered him last weekend after he threatened his wife. They took him to the Psych ward on a Saturday night, and on Sunday morning, he pulled a small pistol (berringer? sorry, don't know guns) out of who knows where and blew his brains out.

    Ok, few questions here. I know obviously the police are at fault (they said they searched him...?) b/c of the gun. Is the hospital at fault at all? Personally, I think if he is chaptered and in custody, the nursing staff shouldn't have to do gun searches. Also, this hospital lets them wear what they came in with, just no shoes. Are all places like this?

    My mom used to work there when they let them keep their shoes and walked in on a guy who had hung himself. This was back in the late 60's. What do you all think? I had thought briefly about working in psych, but if the police can't stop someone from bringing in guns.....

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  2. 38 Comments...

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    OMG. I really feel for the nurses on that unit. The feelings of guilt must be terrible. The last unit I worked on had a suicide a few months before I had arrived and everybody was so shell shocked. The facility did not handle the situation well at all. Nurses special people who are plagued with a lot of self blame -- and this is the worst sort of thinf to happen to them.
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    Nursing staff should not be expected to do gun searches. This is clearly the responsibility of the police. So, no, the hospital couldn't possibly be taken to task for this. If they were, it would be a travesty.
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    I will keep you all posted on what happens with this. They are still investigating.
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    Our staff are all required to do a cursory search of the client even when security staff has already done so. We do not, however, require that the patient remove all clothing so that we may check it (as has been required at other facilities where I have worked and which results in a much safer environment). We never do body cavity checks. Our clients, even on our locked unit, are allowed out for breaks with an MD's order, and are not searched when coming back although they are asked if they've brought back contraband. Some are not honest.
    The bottom line is that we can't keep everyone safe. We are limited by societal and institutional mores but we sure try our best.
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    That is not only devastating for the nurses, but if I were employed at that hospital, I would fear for my life! If this man was able to pull out a gun and kill himself, what is to say that the "next time" this happens, the person won't, instead, shoot his nurse? It's just really scary to me!
  8. 0
    Originally posted by emily_mom
    I had thought briefly about working in psych, but if the police can't stop someone from bringing in guns.....
    But who stops them from bringing guns into the med/surg or OB floors? Point is, we're not safe anywhere, I don't feel it's unique to psych.

    So this thread is pretty old, any updates?

    Heather
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    ShandyLynn and Heather make good points. The guy was just suicidal in this case, many of them are homicidal as well. Perhaps the industry should start making metal detectors a requirement. Patting people down for firearms should be way outside the job descriptions for nurses. I am afraid the nurses could get blamed because that is what usually happens. However, as far as I am concerned they are legally, morally and ethically innocent of any wrong doing.
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    That happened only once in the over 6 years I worked at the hospital in Toledo. Was gruesome and upsetting for everyone. WE were in lockdown.

    renerian
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    in our ER, psych pts are required to undress to their underwear and all personal belongings are kept at the nurses station. Last year another area hosp had as suicide by GSW in the ER....the pt refused to undress and the nurse was summoning the security officers when the man shot himself.....the previous hosp l worked at, a man broke in the lobby after hours with a sawed off shot gun and went to a med-surg floor and pulled the gun on a nurse cause he was unhappy about some aspect of care a family member was getting.......this was not an inner city setting....not a place you would expect this to happen......

    how sad for this man and his family...but l agree with the poster who questioned the safety of the nurses...scarey!


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