A recent newspaper report recounts the reprimand and $3,500 fine imposed on a nurse who threw a cup of water in a patients face.
The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal was told [the male nurse] threw water into a female patient’s face after she hurled her medication onto the floor during a “verbal exchange.”
…“The incident involved a female patient in her mid 20s with a history of disruptive and aggressive behaviour,” she said.
“In the past she had assaulted both other patients and staff.
The tribunal was told on the day of the incident, Mr Geary approached the patient with her medication and a cup of water.
“After some verbal exchange, the patient threw the medication to the floor … (and) [the nurse] momentarily lost control of his emotions,” Judge Kingham said.
“He threw the water into the patient’s face … (and) then picked up the medication and left the room.
“Later, the patient apologised to [the nurse] and he to her.”
Judge Kingham said [the nurse] “bore a responsibility” to behave professionally in the face of the difficult and challenging behaviour.
“His response (to the patient) was not in self defence, nor was it a proportionate response to a verbal exchange,” she said.
Let’s be perfectly clear, when it comes to professional behaviour towards our patients/clients, there is a clear, deep line in the sand here.
And if that line is ever washed feint by the unceasing tides of stress and workloads and difficult situations, it is up to us to re-draw it.
Having said that, I can completely empathise with this nurse.
I have found myself on more than one occasion (tho I am glad to say not too many more) tracking very close to crossing this line. I imagine I am not alone here (anyone else?).
These occasions are not made any easier when the patient steps over to your side and tries to pull you across with unrelenting, unwavering, button-pressing persistence.
Assertiveness, enforcing hospital policy, having zero tolerance for violence…these things are all on our side of the line and are to be encouraged and modeled.
But the other side of the line is where we are no longer in control.
Here there be dragons.
It is important to acknowledge this line, and to recognise that whenever you are even in the emotional-ball-park vicinity of it, you must take appropriate action to change course. Immediately.
That may involve a momentary time out to re-check your emotions, simply taking couple of deep breaths….right through to completely removing yourself from this encounter and getting some help from your colleagues.
No matter how justified you feel in making any sort of point (or taking any sort of action) you are about to make: You are a nurse….so there is a line.
But do you agree with the response?
Interestingly, the Judge in this case noted that the nurse had “already faced other consequences of his action under the Public Service Act 2008”, but that this disciplinary action was initiated after a complaint from the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia.
Acknowledging that I do not know all the facts in this case, and based on the small amount of information provided in this report, I must say I think it could have been handled a little more skilfully.
I think my yearly registration fees would have been better utilised to give this nurse some performance management, and perhaps a little support rather than hauling him before a Judge.
The Tribunal declined to impose any further sanction and the nurse was ordered to pay the costs of the Board fixed at $3,500.
What are your own thoughts on this?