Education And Debate

Violence in the workplaceThe nurse's experienceCommentary: Could guidelines reduce number of incidents?Commentary: Carers deserve care tooCommentary: Roles and identities

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 08 December 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:1362

Violence in the workplace

In the following personal view, a nurse practitioner describes her experience of being assaulted during the course of her work. We invited a nurse, a patient, and a lecturer from a school of health science to comment.

The nurse's experience

It began as real life drama always unfolds. A routine call, a routine night. This one had barely begun when I was called to review an agitated patient who was trying to leave the ward.

The patient, a tall, well built 46 year old man had been admitted with diabetic ketoacidosis to a busy medical ward the previous day. He had now decided he wanted a drink and a cigarette. Despite their best efforts, the three nurses on duty had been unable to persuade him to stay. I could hear his bellowing long before I reached the ward. He targeted me the moment I arrived. With clenched fists held in front of him he pushed me out of his way, hurling abuse at me as he left the ward. Medically he was unfit to be discharged so the police were called. They found him quickly and returned him to the ward. The minute he walked back on to the ward the verbal abuse started again. As they were concerned the police agreed to stay while I spoke to him. With a policeman on either side of him in case he tried to lash out I approached him.

What happened next shocked all that witnessed it. He couldn't reach me with his fists so he kicked me in the stomach with such force that I was sent reeling to the floor. For the first few seconds I felt completely numb, then I felt the sharp, stabbing pain in my abdomen. Tears were streaming down my face, everyone came to my aid, but I couldn't …

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