How do you handle caring for a patient who has been abused?

  1. Today I saw someone I care very deeply for and they had been abused. It made me so angry I could not see straight. They have forgiven the abuser and have moved on. I am having a hard time doing that. Then I thought, wait you want to be a nurse, how will you handle that if you see it in a hospital??

    It made me think about a few years back reading a story about a little girl whos mothers boyfriend had bite of part of her ear and her lip. The story said the nurses that took care of her were upset. I kept thinking I would have been furious. That anger that imediately surfaces in the face of abuse bothers me and makes me wonder if I could be a good nurse..

    My mother says I will be able to handle the anger and still do my job, care for the patient. I think I could care for the patient, I just dont know what I would do if the culprit responsible for the abuse was around. Has anyone had to deal with a situation where they had to take care of a patient that had been abused, and also had to deal with the person that was responsible for the abuse?? Should I consider another field??
    Last edit by eagle78 on Apr 23, '11
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    About eagle78

    Joined: Apr '11; Posts: 325; Likes: 556
    currently unemployed; from US

    7 Comments

  3. by   tokmom
    Yes, I have over the years. It was known abuse from verbal, physical and enabling by buying alcohol to a person that was beyond pickled.
    I treat them with respect. I'm not warm and fuzzy, but neither am I nasty. It does the patient no good for me to be this way. Instead I call APS or CPS and let them handle it.
  4. by   eagle78
    Thanks for your response. Yeah, I guess it would not be good for the patient to flip on the abuser. I will have to pray over it, I really want to do right by the patient.
  5. by   tokmom
    You will. That's all that counts.
  6. by   chaos0058
    I'm not a nurse yet (start school in fall) but my current work is with abuse victims, their family/friends, and sometimes batterers themselves. First of all, it's totally normal to feel angry! That's such a natural reaction and it says a lot about your level of empathy for others, which is a great quality for a nurse. The key is translating those feelings into appropriate actions.

    Like the other poster said, it's perfectly okay to turn it over to other agencies like CPS, APS, police. In the meantime, if they're both there, try to put space between them if possible---having the abuser in the room with the victim will make it much more difficult for the victim to tell you anything or give any kind of statement. Maybe send the abuser out of the room to fill out paperwork, or down the hall to get some water for the pt, or say that it's protocol to examine the patient in private, whatever you are allowed to do in that situation. This is also an opportunity to give the patient resources...like the number for the local abuse agency/shelter/hotline.

    Just my two cents ...again, not a nurse yet, but I do have some expertise with abuse issues. We always encourage people to focus your energy on the victim/survivor's needs and getting them the support they need, regardless of what's happenening with the perpetrator---hopefully they'll get what they're due in court (or through karma/judgement day/afterlife etc, depending on your beliefs!)
    Last edit by chaos0058 on Apr 24, '11
  7. by   Chin up
    Yes, I have handled a horrific case back in the late eighties, that wanted me to kill. I was 28 or 29 at the time. I was a hot headed time bomb, that took no crap from anyone. I remember taking care of a beautiful young woman at a large Boston hospital. Well, the staff loved -----. We took extra special care of her, because of the abuse inflicted on her by the husband. When she was dying, this man with a cane came on the floor and asked where her room was, someone then said, that's him, that's her husband. Everyone in the report room froze. There must have bee 8 of us nurses in there at the time. Some began to cry instantly, some started yelling, let's get him, I was both ways, at the same time. I went into the corridor to confront him and when he turned around, a voice in my head said stop. Everyone who had an instant visceral reaction, calmed down at the same time. We became nurses again and were cordial, but distant toward him. One nurse brought him to the woman's room no different than if she were bringing her father. We all for an instant felt hate and harm that was intense, but sensibilities quickly overcame that and professionalism took over.

    Yes, you will be able to deal. If I could, then anyone can. I have mellowed out much in my 40's and even more in my fifties. However, when I was young, I was very quick to anger. Many of those nurses were like me or even harder and they too did the right thing. You will too.
  8. by   Aeterna
    Yes, it's hard to deal with, but you find ways to still be professional. You don't have to be friendly, just professional. There is a difference.

    We dealt with such a case recently. The neglect done to a recent patient of ours ultimately led to her death. The one who caused it - a supposed loved one of hers - visited every day. None of us knew how to approach him - we were all so sad and angry at the situation. Still, we held our tongues, said "hi" to him if he entered the room, but otherwise, we ignored him unless we had to talk to him. And like I said, you don't have to be friendly, just professional. Any anger or other negative emotions we vented by talking to each other and supporting each other. That seemed to get us through it.
  9. by   eagle78
    Quote from chaos0058
    I'm not a nurse yet (start school in fall) but my current work is with abuse victims, their family/friends, and sometimes batterers themselves. First of all, it's totally normal to feel angry! That's such a natural reaction and it says a lot about your level of empathy for others, which is a great quality for a nurse. The key is translating those feelings into appropriate actions.
    Thank you so very much, your opinion means alot to me especially with your background.

    to Chinup: Yes in my younger days I also was quite fiesty. I think I have mellowed also, I am 50, it just seemed the anger overcame me so quickly.

    It is so wonderful to get so many kind and compasionate responses. As Aeterna said it is important to be professional, and tokmom hit the nail on the head that the patients well being is most important. I really want to do right by the patient, all of your comments have been very helpful. I guess the fear in me is a direct effect of wanting to do the right thing. Thank you all so much for your kind words, they really helped tremendously.

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