A patient spit in my face

  1. I'm relatively new to my PCA/CNA position. I work on a cardiac floor and generally enjoy it. Yesterday I was pulled to 1:1 obs for a patient. As I was changing the patients brief, he/she spit in my face. My mouth was closed, thankfully.

    Now, being spit on sucks big time, but the part that bothered me the most was the response from the nurse. When I told her what happened, she said "yeah, he/she does that". She didn't warn me beforehand, she didn't ask if I needed time to clean up, she didn't really seem to give a crap. I get that she's busy, everyone is. But damn. A little empathy would have gone a long way in making me more comfortable - especially since I had several more hours of sitting to do.

    Just venting I guess.
    Last edit by Brian S. on Jun 25
  2. Visit ItsThatJenGirl profile page

    About ItsThatJenGirl, CNA

    Joined: Jun '16; Posts: 2,054; Likes: 5,312

    25 Comments

  3. by   brownbook
    Sorry, that nurse is an ass. Take the high road and vow to never treat a coworker, or patient, as she treated you.
  4. by   ItsThatJenGirl
    Quote from brownbook
    Sorry, that nurse is an ass. Take the high road and vow to never treat a coworker, or patient, as she treated you.
    Thanks for giving me a more positive way to view the situation. Lesson learned!
  5. by   GypsyNurse0503
    I'm really sorry that happened to you. I know it doesn't help much not hearing it from THAT nurse, but I hope it helps a little bit hearing it from THIS nurse! Having been both a CNA and RN, and treated just as callously in both of the roles, I agree: it sucks when something happens and no one seems to care. In any other profession, assault/battery wouldn't be tolerated. We don't need to be put on pedestals, like what was brought up in another thread, but a little common decency, CARING, and empathy for each other goes a long way. Hugs!
  6. by   JKL33
    I'm proactive in sharing appropriate information that I would want to know or that should be passed on so the patient can receive good care. If I knew the patient was a spitter, you would have known too. A brief but proper report is in order - along with a huge thank you.

    So, in case she also didn't thank you: Thank you!!

    Yep. You will be better than that!
  7. by   ItsThatJenGirl
    Thank you both. I feel better having posted. Guess I just needed to get it out.
  8. by   GypsyNurse0503
    Quote from ItsThatJenGirl
    Thank you both. I feel better having posted. Guess I just needed to get it out.
    It's true! We NEED to be able to talk about this kind of stuff, to be supported, to know support IS out there...otherwise, if we don't, that's the highway to burnout.
  9. by   Sour Lemon
    You should have been given that information before you went anywhere near the guy. "My" sitters are always instructed to call for help when working with a 1:1 patient unless I'm 100% sure the patient's behavior is reasonable. It's usually not.
  10. by   AnnieNP
    I'm so sorry. I would have warned you and gone in with you. You have learned "what not to do"!!
  11. by   macawake
    Quote from ItsThatJenGirl
    As I was changing the patients brief, he/she spit in my face.
    Quote from ItsThatJenGirl
    the part that bothered me the most was the response from the nurse. When I told her what happened, she said "yeah, he/she does that". She didn't warn me beforehand, she didn't ask if I needed time to clean up, she didn't really seem to give a crap.
    First of all, I'm very sorry this happened to you!

    To me, not sharing all information to your entire team regarding personal safety, is inexcusable. It bothers me that the nurse didn't even apologize and say that she should have told you, but she forgot due to stress, or whatever the case may have been. Based on your description of the event, she didn't seem to think it was a big deal that she failed to pass along the information.

    If something like this incident has happened to you dozens of times, and it might if you work with human beings long enough, you can become a bit hardened and jaded. That's something I know from experience. Despite that she ought to have been able to express some sympathy for how you felt and acknowledge that what happened to you wasn't okay.

    Spitting someone in their face is of course an act of aggression. It's certainly unpleasant even in the cases when the person doesn't happen to have a communicable disease you have to worry about. But more importantly, the propensity to spit is a warning sign that there might be more and worse aggression/violent behavior in the future.

    When I have a patient whom I know has shown signs of aggression, I always keep a watchful eye on movement from the parts they can hurt me with. Forehead and teeth are excellent weapons, hands, elbows, knees and feet. A raised voice or slapping/hitting/punching themselves can also signal escalation/possible violent behavior towards someone else.

    Also be aware of whatever sharp objects or blunt objects of sufficient weight they have within arm's length/reach. If you use a stethoscope at work, personally I never have it hanging around my neck when in close vicinity to a person who might be prone to violent behavior.

    If she'd told you, you might have asked for help or she could have made the offer herself to help you, when doing personal care. Or you might have been able to position yourself in relation to your patient in a way that would have made it more difficult to aim at your face.

    About the psychological impact of being spat in the face. It's pretty disgusting either way, but another thing I know from experience is that these type of attacks are easier to process if you are mentally prepared for the aggressive behavior. That's just one more reason to always share the relevant information regarding the patient, to those directly involved in their care.

    Again, I'm sorry this happened to you. I think your coworker failed you.


    Be safe and take care!
    Last edit by macawake on Jun 24
  12. by   nightlightnurseaide
    hey not saying its alright


    but she probably dealt with it for so long she didn't think much of it. She should have warned you beforehand, but she could have not been thinking about it at the time.

    she could have handled it better, but i don't think that makes her an "ass"
  13. by   Wiggly Litchi
    Awww Jen, I'm sorry you had to deal with that
    When patients treat me harshly, I try to remind myself that I shouldn't take it personally. Sometimes you get patients that are cognitive and being rude is just part of their personality; for the others, I try to tell myself that it's not really 'them' that's making them lash out.
    I make an extra point to treat myself that day to make up for it, whether it's getting dessert that night, or just taking a little extra 'me' time.

    I hate it when coworkers don't warn you about certain behaviors; I remember accepting an assignment at an old facility I worked at, and they didn't tell me that the new pt was combative (she was a pincher); I knew that she was nonverbal, but could still participate somewhat in ADLs. I was transferring her from her bed to chair when she started digging her nails into my arm so hard that she almost drew blood. I couldn't drop the pt so had to endure it until she was safe. The nurse had forgotten to tell me, and it was an honest mistake, she was swamped with work and so I get that, but a head's up would have been nice.

    I've learned over the years ways to avoid attacks, and to keep a wary eye on free hands (I do not plan to get punched any time soon! haha). The skills and situational awareness/peripheral vision (I don't know another way to describe it) will come over time. Don't worry if you can help it, I'm sure you're awesome at what you do!

    I am so sorry that the nurse you worked with didn't warn you, and then to top it off, didn't show any empathy. You're an important part of the team and worthy of respect too.
  14. by   JadedCPN
    The thing that makes this nurse an Ass wasn't that they didn't tell you the patient was a spitter - it is very possible that they got caught up in their thoughts and it slipped their mind. What makes them an ass was their response once you told them what happened, and their lack of empathy, compassion, or even just an apology.

    I have been guilty of forgetting to mention something major to my CNAs by accident. One incident that comes to mind was forgetting to let her know on night shift that our kiddo didn't have a left arm - it had been amputated years before so wasn't related to the admission - and the poor CNA went in to get vitals at midnight, looking for a left arm to put the blood pressure cuff on . She came out and called me out on it, and I couldn't stop apologizing. Thankfully she had a good sense of humor about it after the fact!

    Everyone makes mistakes or forgets things every now and again - it is all in how you deal with it afterwards.

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