Clinical placements

Punch from a patient led to correct diagnosis

When nursing student Charlotte Hall was hit by a patient, she used it as a learning experience and helped the patient get the right diagnosis

When nursing student Charlotte Hall was hit by a patient, she used it as a learning experience and helped the patient get the right diagnosis.

During a recent placement on an older peoples ward, I was punched in the face by a patient.

Picture: iStock

It was during visiting time and the patient, who I will call Jim, had come out of his room and was trying to enter another patient's room.

When a nurse attempted to stop him, he lashed out, hitting her with his walking frame. Along with some other members of staff, I approached Jim and the nurse to see if I could help.

But we couldn't reason with him at this point in time and, in a panic, Jim punched me in the face before we could get him to a safe and calmer environment.

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When nursing student Charlotte Hall was hit by a patient, she used it as a learning experience and helped the patient get the right diagnosis.

During a recent placement on an older people’s ward, I was punched in the face by a patient. 


Picture: iStock

 

It was during visiting time and the patient, who I will call Jim, had come out of his room and was trying to enter another patient's room.

When a nurse attempted to stop him, he lashed out, hitting her with his walking frame. Along with some other members of staff, I approached Jim and the nurse to see if I could help. 

But we couldn't reason with him at this point in time and, in a panic, Jim punched me in the face before we could get him to a safe and calmer environment. 

Although I was shocked by this and in pain, I wasn't angry, I was concerned. Why had he hit me? This behaviour was unusual for Jim, and what hurt more than my injury was the reaction of the visitors, who were fussing over me saying he was a disgrace and that I should sue him for assault. 

But the nursing staff reacted with total professionalism, collectively managing to defuse the situation while also maintaining Jim’s privacy and dignity. 

This incident happened very quickly and, on reflection, I was amazed at how I automatically applied the lessons I had learned throughout my training. I knew that Jim’s actions were not normal for him, and I needed to flag up that this type of behaviour was out of character for this patient. After further investigation, Jim was diagnosed with vascular dementia. 

Although I had been injured, I felt empowered followed this incident. I had applied my theoretical knowledge to practice and was able to reason with Jim to help calm him down. 

Instead of judging him and reacting with anger or upset, I understood that this behaviour was not normal for him, and discouraged the visitors from speaking negatively about him. I told them that we need to treat people with kindness and respect, and to avoid making assumptions or judging people for their actions when we don’t know all the facts. 

I also reminded the members of the multidisciplinary team of this, and that this behaviour was not what I had previously witnessed from Jim. 

When people are in our care, and out of an environment that is comfortable for them, they are vulnerable. They can become anxious, distressed and confused, and react without considering the consequences because they are scared and feel out of control. 

I learned a lot from this experience, and was reminded why I want to be a nurse. We are in a powerful position as nurses, one which should never be taken lightly. It is our duty to protect our patients and to advocate for them. 

Patients will cry for help in many ways, it is our duty as nurses to hear them and respond the best way we can.  


Charlotte Lara Hall

Charlotte Lara Hall is a second-year nursing student at the University of the West of England and a student information officer for RCN South West. 

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