Serving the Insane : True Stories from the Diary of a Psychiatric Nurse

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In my short career, I have been punched in the face, bitten, scratched, kicked and threatened with improvised weapons. But I am one of the lucky ones — my colleagues have been stabbed, strangled and permanently injured. These supposedly unskilled workers deftly navigate complex situations on a daily basis. They sensitively persuade a paranoid man to take medication that he believes is poison or motivate a depressed woman to take her first shower in weeks. They respond to frequent hostility and abuse with courage, patience and empathy. Of course, not all our patients are aggressive; those who are represent a tiny proportion of people with mental health problems in a state of acute crisis.

When they recover, many return to being highly competent teachers, shop assistants, lawyers or stay-at-home parents. However, with increased pressure on beds, service users are much more unwell when they enter hospital and much less well when they leave.

Patient turnover is higher, so the work we do during admission has to be faster. This makes for a stressful environment, and staff turnover and sickness is high so we rely on agency staff who do not know our patients and are not trained in managing aggression. Unlike the police, we cannot justify using riot gear, hand cuffs, batons or Tasers, and we cannot inflict pain.


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Often it is our relationship with service users that stands between safety and catastrophe. With less time, we often miss our window of opportunity to intervene. Once people become really angry or frightened, they cannot reason in the same way.

A Nurse’s Reflection on Her Nursing Clinical Experience

This guy was offering a very thoughtful argument as to why such claims should not be so quickly dismissed. There he was, confined and protected, constantly observed, his health and behavior documented, and there is zero chance that anyone would ever take his concerns seriously. How else would you test and improve such technology? Does the government not have a strong motivation and a plausible ability to create such a device?

I know just how unbelievable it sounds, and yet, here I am. Anyway, the mom was shaking and crying, and they had to take the kid into another room. She was genuinely afraid of her own son. She had suspected something was wrong when she kept finding mutilated animals in the backyard, but never heard or saw coyotes or anything around. The neighbors smaller pets started disappearing. The boy had an obsession with knives, hiding them around the house. Denying anything when the mom confronted him.

Then when the two started getting into arguments, he would get really violent and hit her, push her down and kick her, threaten to kill her. On multiple occasions she woke up in the middle of the night with him standing beside her bed, staring her in the face. She put extra locks on her bedroom door to feel safe while she slept.

Intimidating Clinicals

So she brought him to us. I remember talking to him, treating him like he was just any other kid that came through. He seemed remarkably normal, until you spoke directly to him. And he would always put on this creepy, dead-looking smile. Like all mouth and no eye involvement in the smile.

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Still gives me chills laying here thinking about him. I was a pharmacy technician at a hospital with a psych ward for some time. I never had any real issues other than the occasional death grip onto my arm or manic outbursts, but there was one boy who was entirely different. His chart said he was nine and he had pale skin, dark hair, and huge bright, green eyes. He always greeted me in the most polite way, asked how I was doing, and always found something different to compliment me on every time.

He was extremely well-spoken and mature for his age, so I began looking forward to seeing him, as normal small talk is definitely cherished in that setting. One day, a couple of our female nurses saw me pause to chat with him in the hallway, and waved me over to ask if I was out of my mind.


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Apparently, when he was in kindergarten, he grew an intense attachment to his young female teacher. So, he went home and, killed his own mother in her sleep by cutting her throat, so his teacher could be his mom. The female staff had a general rule of not interacting with him excessively to prevent any kind of attachment from forming.

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But creepiness was a part of it. Especially evening and night shifts, naturally. There is always something disturbing about watching someone while they hallucinate. You see the emotions it brings out. Well done!

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Bruce you really captured the way things were done! Glad those days are behind us! Sam rated it liked it Apr 19, Cindy rated it really liked it Feb 12, Pamela rated it really liked it Jan 04, Ashley Cole rated it liked it Aug 07, Amy P rated it liked it Aug 28, Wendy lochtenberg rated it it was amazing Jul 15, Adrienne Caldow rated it liked it May 09, Maureen Marshall rated it did not like it Feb 09, Michele rated it it was amazing Jan 24, Grant Davies rated it liked it Apr 21, Sandra Kennedy rated it it was amazing Apr 19, Shari rated it really liked it Aug 05, Karen Madda rated it it was ok Jan 20, Wesley Croft rated it really liked it Sep 19, Kirsty rated it did not like it Dec 29, Heather Komorowski rated it really liked it Jan 12, Rebecca Clark rated it liked it Jan 01, Mary Jane Clark rated it liked it Jul 16, Liz Witts rated it it was ok Dec 15, Enara Larcombe rated it really liked it Mar 26,



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