I have a decade’s worth of mental health based work. It’s been an adventure that I wish I could go back to. Thanks to RA and a partial thyroidectomy, it’s not a possibility.
I read this article and it really stuck with me.
Working in the mental health field is physically and emotionally challenging. It’s a well-known fact when you start. I’ve learned so much about myself and others thanks to my chosen field. I really don’t think I’d be happy in many other fields.
As mental health workers we are trained (extensively, I hope) but there are so many things that training doesn’t cover.
When I sat through my orientation for the last mental health associate job I had, I learned a lot- I had to learn about all of the inpatient units. I don’t remember them telling us that we were in for such an adventure.
I met Josh at this orientation and I’m pretty sure both of us would have stayed even if we did know.
If you want a more in-depth idea of my main injuries, you can read this gem
The point is, these are the things that we face in the world of psych nursing and mental health workers. I guess if they really broke it down in orientation, some people might run on the first day.
We definitely don’t apply for jobs thinking, “wow, I’m gonna go into this job and get beat up, screamed at..” Most of us go into them ready to help others.
It definitely is NOT for the money, unless you’re a nurse manager or something. Some psych nurses do make great money but not all. Mental health workers?
Nope. It’s not great pay, but that’s not a good reason to go into this or many other fields.
As my friend Mackenna said, “this needs to be talked about and no one is willing to do it.”
She’s right. Many psych nurses and mental health workers don’t talk about the injuries that we endure. I didn’t want to tell my manager when I busted my toe. I knew I would have been sent to the camera room for a month or so and NOPE. I taped it up and kept going.
This Can Really Happen?
One incident was super scary. I was working the second shift in an adult unit.
This patient had a “wet brain” from alcohol use and was pretty aggressive, which is why he had a 1:1.
The lights were off in his room, but the door was open, plus there was someone watching a camera in his room. I also had a transponder with a button to hit in case of an emergency.
I was tired and ready to go home but a bit more aware than usual.
He had swastika and other tattoos that were a sign that we weren’t going to best friends.
(Reference: I’m half black and Jewish, and my skin tone is a nice shade of tan)
Y’all. He glared at me for a while before falling asleep, but I was okay with that.
But then he jumped out of bed, ran over to me and shoved my chair into the wall before I could hit the button.
Third shift was coming in and had a male mental health worker hadn’t heard the chair hitting the wall as he walked by, I could have been seriously hurt. Matt came in and peeled this guy off my chair and told me to get out.
I was GONE. I’m not sure I clocked out. It’s the only time I’ve ever feared for my life while working.
I remember shaking while driving home. Matthew was furious when I told him about this, but knew I wasn’t quitting.
I stayed until September 4, 2015, the morning of Jake’s funeral.
Did I tell someone in charge?
Yes. But not until the next day. I was so scared and shocked, more than anything else, that for once, I didn’t have words to put together about this.
If you’re wondering, he became a male-only 1:1 after that. If you ask me, I shouldn’t have been placed with this guy, to begin with. It’s clear he didn’t like black people. His size wasn’t an issue- I was well trained in Safe Crisis Management techniques. I’d taken down plenty of people bigger than me. Having brain damage from alcohol will do a lot to you.
*insert short girl joke*
I’m sure you can see the issues here.
Yes, changes were made so that further issues/injuries were lessened, but what if they hadn’t been? Someone else would have been hurt, probably worse.
I’m not afraid to stand up for myself in the workplace but there are so many who are. This is why I said something.
It’s All in a Day’s Work.. Or Maybe Not
In the course of 8 hours (or 12, depending on your schedule) a lot can happen in healthcare, whether you’re on a psychiatric unit, geriatrics or anywhere else.
We hear some vile things from the patient and/or their families. This is why I try to be as nice as I can to doctors and nursing staff.
Working with kids with autism is a whole different planet. Yes, it’s rewarding. Yes, it’s great to see progress.
However, I can’t say I enjoyed being scratched, bitten, kicked, etc. I don’t think anyone does, but most are warned before starting a position with this population. There’s a lot to be learned and a lot more fun to be had.
The tougher side does get to most of us. Being attacked isn’t just physically hard- so is trying to process it.
I’ve never considered bring charges against anyone in this way, because I’m fully aware that the patients weren’t always able to realize what they were doing. This is diminished capacity. Plus, if you bring charges, you get moved to a different unit or might be risking your job. Most of us aren’t trying to do either of those things.
Even “The Resident” Gets It
I’m a huge fan of that show and if you’re not watching, you’re really missing out. Last night’s episode, in part discussed nationwide staff shortages in hospitals. They even showed a patient getting aggressive with a hospital volunteer.
Been there. It’s not pretty.
Sometimes when there’s not enough staff in a facility, there’s a possibility of someone getting hurt- medical staff, patient, family members, for example.
On the show, a nursing student had a rough time with a patient, who verbally attacked her. She ran into a closet and cried, she was ready to quit.
No spoiler alerts, go watch the episode!
These are real-life situations that many don’t see. Even coworkers can be less than helpful in this area.
What Needs to Happen?
It’s hard to say, honestly. There’s so many laws and other organizations that are involved in making sure that healthcare workers are okay, physically and emotionally.
If you’re reading this and have been attacked by a patient, no matter what kind of facility you work in, your words matter. Tell your supervisor. If that doesn’t get anything done, keep going up the chain of command. You’re worth speaking out for.
The hashtag that is the title of this post represents those who are choosing to speak out and create change in the industry.
Research those laws (not my finest quality, but that is why Google exists). Send emails. Make phone calls.
Most of all, support your coworkers if they come to you about an attack. It really does wear on your psyche.
If you’re a healthcare worker, PLEASE let me know what you think!! Leave a comment or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The takeaway? Be nice to healthcare workers, it’s a hard career. (Now, if they’re being rude or otherwise inappropriate, feel free to shred them.)
If you’re interested in the Facebook group for the #SilentNoMore foundation and/or the page: