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Patient filed a sexual harassment complaint. HR wants to talk to me

Posted

Specializes in Psych. Has 2 years experience.

So I was working my shift. I got a call from HR and they told me they needed to talk to me in person. I went and the HR rep told me the patient in the psych unit I work in filed a complaint that I groped her breast. I never did that. I told HR that during my shift she kept talking to a few of the nurses about her issues and would start to cry. I was rounding at night and I saw her crying and walked into her room asked her if she needed anything to calm herself down. She starts telling me everything about her issues. I talked to her for a bit and then left. I received a call from HR stating they needed to talk to me in person. I told her my side as she wanted and asked if I needed to get an attorney or if I was going to be fired. She said she didn't know but that she would keep me posted. That is totally unfair I think now I'm worried what can come of this. The hospital doesn't have a union either.

I'm freaking out because I'm thinking of the worst things that can happen. Would anybody get an attorney? Should I start looking for one? I'm freaking out and was hoping I'm not the only one who went through this. What are some of the most serious complaints you've had against you?

Sour Lemon

Has 9 years experience.

I'm no lawyer (obviously), so this is strictly my personal opinion based on my personal thoughts and experiences.

I would not show excessive concern, ask about being fired, or ask about getting a lawyer. I would answer the accusations in a matter of fact, assured manner and try very hard not to take it personally. If I engaged in any further conversation, it would be to ask how best to protect myself from such accusations in the future.

The closest thing I've experienced was a patient ripping out her own NG tube, then screaming, "Look what you did!" I was stunned, and even more stunned when she filed a formal complaint saying that I had grabbed it and forcefully ripped it out in anger.

I was called to speak with a bunch of "people", and I just let them know what happened without being emotional or offering any opinions about why the patient did what she did.

In my case, it turned out that the patient had a history of making outrageous complaints. I never heard anything about it after that one formal meeting.

JBMmom, MSN

Specializes in Long term care; med-surg; critical care. Has 9 years experience.

I have no personal experience but I think that Sour Lemon gave you some good advice. Since you don't have a union to have a representative there with you, just giving your straightforward recount of the events as you remember is the best you can do. If you get too nervous/defensive, they may incorrectly read more into it, like you might be hiding something. Sorry you're dealing with this, good luck. 

Given the nature of the accusation heck yes I would talk to a lawyer. You are in a bad spot regardless what happened. What is your employer going to do--tell her she is lying and/or just shut it down?  I suppose anything's possible, but if they do tell her that it will be because they've decided it's in their own best interest to handle it that way, not because you said you didn't do it or because they want to support an employee.

Ugh.

But I do agree with SL about it not being wise to act anything other than professional and assertively neutral with HR. Don't ask them anything. They aren't there for you AT ALL; your interests are not theirs. They have no duty to advise you in your best interest or tell you anything. Not a slight against them, just a fact.

 

JadedCPN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Pediatrics, Pediatric Float, PICU, NICU. Has 15 years experience.

Yes to what everyone else has said. But I especially agree with JKL, I would still be consulting with a lawyer and asking the lawyer what their recommendation is but wouldn’t tell the employer that you have reached out to a lawyer. Hopefully absolutely nothing would come of it after giving your account of events, but if for some reason it did you’d already have a lawyer in the loop.

The0Walrus, BSN, RN

Specializes in Psych. Has 2 years experience.

Thanks everyone. I spoke to a coworker about this who worked with me that night and she laughed it off saying basically the patient had been there before as a med seeker and the psych unit is filled with manipulative drug seekers. She told me "we have the aide doing rounds and the rover doing rounds. You also were at the nurse's station for most of the night." (Overnight). Then she said throughout the years other male coworkers had the same thing done to them because they didn't want to give meds to them d/t no orders for them and the patient would retaliate. She said HR just needs to follow up with the complaint and that's it.

I'll still speaking to an attorney because I've never had this happen so to have been told this I was stunned. Thanks everyone.

Davey Do

Specializes in around 25 years psych, 10 years medical. Has 42 years experience.

Your anxiety is understandably so, Walrus, and I can identify and commiserate with you. Having experienced a couple of similar situations, I let them play out and it all came out in the wash.

Realize this: HR has To investigate these charges, and as distasteful as the process is, it is a must.

Do whatever you can to reduce your anxiety about this situation. I found that writing down everything I could possibly remember about the situation helped. This is an ongoing process that acts as a catharsis and causes your brain to put things in order. 

Sometimes, when we're going about our business, something else which occurred or was said will pop into our mind. WRITE IT DOWN.

By the time this thing comes to a head, you will remember, and be able to recall, the entire scenario. For me, this was a very comforting feeling, like being confidently prepared for an exam.

The attorney thing is your decision. I never used an attorney during my  disputes, only an EAP representative.

The very best to you, Walrus. In the end, you will prevail.

Daisy4RN

Specializes in Travel, Home Health, Med-Surg. Has 20 years experience.

I would not say anything further to anyone at this point without a lawyer. This is not only a potential work/license issue but also could be a civil/criminal issue . That said, I agree that more than likely it will just blow over but I would still CYA. Good advice to not think HR is on your side, write things down when you think about it and check with your Insurance carrier if you have one.

Good luck, hope it all works out!

Davey Do

Specializes in around 25 years psych, 10 years medical. Has 42 years experience.

49 minutes ago, amoLucia said:

Don't know about this, but would your malpractice insurance be able to offer some advice?

Yes! Good point, amoLucia!

While going through a situation where an unlicensed employee was stepping WAY out of bounds, I directed her to rectify and  report the situation. I contacted a JD RN with my liability company and she directed me through the process.

umbdude, MSN, NP

Specializes in Psych/Mental Health. Has 4 years experience.

I'm sorry to hear. 

Do you have your own malpractice insurance? If you do, contact them right away. Malpractice companies usually have attorneys that could point you to the right direction if not more.

It's very common for employers to throw employees under the bus regardless (they're afraid patient will go public and damage the reputation). If you do not have your own insurance policy (which everyone should always have his/her own), I think it would be wise to secure an attorney who is familiar with these kinds of scenarios.

vintagegal, BSN, RN

Specializes in Geriatrics. Has 2 years experience.

Never put yourself in a compromising position to be accused. However, if this is psych, this could just be a psych manifestation. nobody would be doing their jobs if they dismissed this accusation without looking into it. 

Edited by vintagegal

B52, ADN, BSN, MSN, RN

Specializes in Psych, Substance Abuse. Has 10 years experience.

My advice, do not sign anything that would give up your right to sue.

Curious1997, BSN

Specializes in Psych, Medical. Has 13 years experience.

Everything everyone says, except if you still are working there and have access to her files, you need to check if she has a history of previous sexual accusations or any accusations. Keep your gob shut about this. Make a note of previous admissions to other institutions and dates. This could be useful if a civil case developed. Those records can be subpoenaed. And you can sue the hospital if things go awry. 

I hope your hospital doesn't have an arbitration clause, in which case you will need a good lawyer because the hospital owns the arbitrator. 

Very likely depends on how it turns out, you will probably find your colleagues are going to be cool towards you and the relationships changed. It's irrepairable! You may even consider moving on. 

You might have to do a 'Shaggy' Wasn't Me😕. Sorry, couldn't resist it. Hope it gave you a laugh. 

Where do you hide a tree but in the forest. 

Edited by Curious1997

amoLucia

Specializes in LTC.

6 minutes ago, Curious1997 said:

 

 

I would keep away from any medical records you shouldn't be looking in. Primarily, there's HIPAA but also because you'll prob be restricted from her care. A lawyer will know to subpoena hosp charts anyway. But poking into records where you shouldn't be will yield you troubles galore!

Curious1997, BSN

Specializes in Psych, Medical. Has 13 years experience.

16 minutes ago, amoLucia said:

I would keep away from any medical records you shouldn't be looking in. Primarily, there's HIPAA but also because you'll prob be restricted from her care. A lawyer will know to subpoena hosp charts anyway. But poking into records where you shouldn't be will yield you troubles galore!

Hence the keep his mouth shut. And only if he's legally able to access her records. You can't be faulted for research re an accusation. He has to be clever here and smart. If she's actually accused anyone before, he's not totally in the clear but he can insist on good recommendations from them re future jobs if not damages. He has to think that if things get complicated that his insurance company will settle, but his premiums are going to skyrocket in the future. There are many considerations he needs to consider. 

It's the main reason why I don't work female adolescents. They have serious transference issues. And I would absolutely never be caught dead, alone with a female patient. 

Don't ever just rely on someone else because if it gets to the lawyer stage, then it's serious trouble. Information is the main resource he has here. I don't believe in union lawyers because I actually think that their best interests are to the hospital and the union, not the members. 

JadedCPN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Pediatrics, Pediatric Float, PICU, NICU. Has 15 years experience.

1 hour ago, amoLucia said:

I would keep away from any medical records you shouldn't be looking in. Primarily, there's HIPAA but also because you'll prob be restricted from her care. A lawyer will know to subpoena hosp charts anyway. But poking into records where you shouldn't be will yield you troubles galore!

I definitely second this. If he isn’t taking care of the patient that day, he has no reason to be in her chart and if this goes beyond a routine internal investigation then I can guarantee they’ll be checking to see who accessed the charts. 

Sour Lemon

Has 9 years experience.

On 5/3/2021 at 3:47 PM, JadedCPN said:

I definitely second this. If he isn’t taking care of the patient that day, he has no reason to be in her chart and if this goes beyond a routine internal investigation then I can guarantee they’ll be checking to see who accessed the charts. 

And I "third" it. Stay out of the chart unless she's under your care at that exact moment and you're looking at what you need to know to care for her at that exact moment.

It doesn't matter if you keep your mouth shut. Monitoring is sophisticated, and you are a model nurse and citizen who always behaves in the most proper manner possible.