Witnessed Patient Abuse

Nurses General Nursing


Specializes in NICU.

The patient was my brother who has been to hell and back with chronic illnesses. I was on the phone with him and ended the call when the charge nurse came in after he requested to speak to her. He thought he’d hung up, but didn’t and I witnessed this nurse belittle and bully my brother to tears. He is a wounded vet and had a liver transplant due to an RPG missle fragment piercing his liver causing a massive infection and organ failure. This current hospitalization was due to extreme dehydration and pain from a cdiff infection, a common problem in transplant patients. Because he has had so many injuries and surgeries, he’s developed a high tolerance for pain medication. He only asks for it when he’s been admitted for cdiff (had it 3x) or surgeries. The nurse could only offer him percocet (standing order until doc could be contacted) He accepted it once and it did nothing for his pain. When she offered it again, he tried to explain that it didn’t work at all and he was in extreme pain. She also had his antibiotic to give him. He told her he would like to wait until he could have his pain relieved as this particular antibiotic hurt his stomach. She said that he was refusing his meds and then she threw them in the trash can in the room and stormed out. He asked to speak to the charge nurse to explain what happened and hope that she would understand what he was asking for. She was harsh and argumentative from the moment she walked in. Her approach was to treat him like a child and also accuse him of refusing his meds. When he would say I feel like you’re not listening to me, she just kept escalating the situation with arguing, the opposite if what we’ve been trained to do when a patient is asking for help. He knows what works for him and he was trying to advocate for himself. At one point he tearfully said that he was in so much pain that he felt like he was going to lose it. I knew what he meant, but she took it as a threat and said So you want me to call security? Then she giggled. The next thing I remember is my brother just sobbing, which I’ve never seen unless he is in severe pain. I was appalled with this interaction and headed to the hospital. In the meantime my brother de-escalated the situation by apologizing about how the conversation had gone, saying that he understood that they were probably working very hard considering being understaffed. Her reply was Oh, we’re not understaffed at all. Our staffing is the best we’ve had in weeks! She had no apology for her inappropriate coments or the bedside nurse’s behavior.  I’m not even sure why he apologized as he did nothing wrong. I’ve been his support through all of his health issues for many years and have never witnessed such appalling behavior from a nurse. My brother and I would like to report this treatment in hopes that this charge nurse will realize her mistreatment of my brother. Who do you think would be the best person to speak to?

Specializes in Psych (25 years), Medical (15 years).

This is a very emotionally charged and difficult situation. My heart goes out to both you and your brother for the many stressors involved in this situation.

Objective documentation of the situation is a good place to start.  Document specifics, such as times and names. Since an attempt has been made in trying to rectify the situation with the attending nurse, follow the chain of command with the nurse's supervisor with the submitted documentation.

Relay a request that your brother and you need to be informed of the outcome as soon as appropriately possible. Dealing with these types of situations typically require some time, depending on different factors, such as work schedules and the like.

If you believe and feel true patient abuse is the matter here, contacting the hospital's administrative officials, such as the CEO, would be in order. Should your brother currently be a patient and time is of the essence, this could be a prudent maneuver.

If time is of the essence, gather as much data as possible and make some phone calls.

Good luck and best wishes, Sangrang.

Specializes in New Critical care NP, Critical care, Med-surg, LTC.

I'm sorry for you and your brother that he went through that. There is no excuse for treating patients in a demeaning manner and not appropriately addressing pain. 

There should be a patient advocate department in any hospital and when I have had family members make complaints about other staff members I usually tell them that is the office most equipped to follow on similar matters. 

I hope that the situation can be resolved, although it won't do anything to alleviate the pain he went through at that time. Best wishes to you both.  

Specializes in LTC & Rehab Supervision.

This is disgusting. I'm so sorry your brother went through this. This nurse and charge nurse acted so unprofessionally and it should be reported ASAP.

I agree with Davey (as usual!), record the time, date and bring it to grievance officer (or someone similar) of the hospital. They will take it from there.

I completely understand where pain like this comes from, having multiple open heart and pacemaker surgeries in my life. Whether he took the antibiotic or they called the doctor in the end, what happened is never okay. I hope you don't think all nurses are like this. ? 

In my facility, if there is a suspicion of abuse, verbal or physical, we are to send the person home immediately and call the director of nursing ASAP, and call the police. I really hope they did something similar in this situation.

Specializes in Geriatrics, Management, Administration, Leadership.

It is important to report this type of behavior or it will just continue. You had made the comment that your brother was a  veteran. I first would like to thank him for his service. I agree with the other comments. Document what occurred to include names and continue following the chain of command until your and your brother's voices are heard. With your brother being a veteran did this occur in a VA hospital? I ask as a VA nurse because the way the nurses approached your brother goes against the VA's core values. I would report to the unit's Nurse Manager, Associate Chief Nurse, and or the Chief Nurse. Everyone needs an advocate. Your brother is fortunate to have you. 

Specializes in Oncology.

Your brother and any person has the right to refuse.  Why do so many nurses take this personally and forget that right? 

Yes. Report it at their supervisory level,  then go up from there. 

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