I am finishing up my very last clinical for nursing school. 180 hour preceptorship on a psych unit. We have a mix between addicts, mood and thought disorders, depression, Suicidal and Homicidal Ideations, Auditory and Visual Hallucinations and everything in between. It's a VERY busy unit. Some of the patients have some serious mental health issues. Some get involuntarily committed because they were deemed to be a threat to themselves, some were admitted because of overdoses.
I have worked on a med surge, Tele, Neuro unit for almost 2 years now. When patients get discharged, it isn't out of the ordinary for them to try to give us a thankful hug. Hugs are amazing. As humans, we crave touch. Hugging releases all the "feel good" feelings and is a healthy action to have in your life.
So, my question is. Why is it so taboo, so to speak, to hug a patient that is on a psych unit?
Now I understand that looking out for your safety is important. Being a good judge of character is vital and taking your safety and the safety of others into consideration is of utmost importance. On a psych unit especially, there is always a chance of having pedophiles, rapists, murderers, stalkers, etc but isn't that a chance you take on any unit? Shouldn't safety precautions be taken on every unit?
Why do health professionals add to the stigma of mental health by avoiding touching their patients at all costs? As if they have a invisible plague that encapsulates their body and the only way to pass it is through touching?
I had a young patient that was all smiles for 2 weeks. He never complained. He never showed any other emotion other than happiness. An overdose scared the crap out of him and he realized how lucky he was to be alive. The last day I worked with him, he had a moment of clarity. He realized all the bad he'd done. All the people he hurt. All the damage he'd done and he broke down sobbing in the middle of the unit. As a human being, he needed a hug. I gave him a hug, asked him of he wanted to walk with me and talk to help him calm down. It helped. 20 minutes later, he had calmed down and put a few things in perspective.
I was immediately reprimanded for being "too close" with a patient.
But isn't that the point of being a psych nurse? To help your patients with coping skills? Show them a healthy way to calm down and react? I dont want to be a conveyer belt nurse. Just passing out meds, patient after patient and asking the generic assessment questions every day. I want to help. I want to make a difference. I want my patients to know that someone cares about them and is rooting for them to succeed.
So, I'd like to know. Do you hug your patients?
All the nurses I've asked so far have said that they either don't or that there's a grey area and while they shouldnt, they either give side hugs or just don't make a habit of it.
What are your thoughts?