A Journey into Darkness … From Nurse to Patient.Traumatic brain injury

12 Jan
English: An animated gif of MRI images of a hu...

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Patient Safety Month
MRI of patient with brain trauma and resultant...

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Nurses work with violent patients every day.  Their safety is compromised by combative patient’s and families.  Safety is always a priority for patients, but rarely is safety acknowledged for the nurses themselves.  Or at least it does not appear that way behind closed doors.  They are exceedingly exposed to abuse within the healthcare system, but yet expected to accept it.  This is true for all our of healthcare professionals and caregivers.
How often do we hear about abuse within the healthcare system?  We hear about domestic abuse, child abuse, elder abuse, financial abuse, but what about nurse abuse and healthcare employee abuse?  The maltreatment from not only patients and families, but from your own coworkers?  This topic is relatively taboo within the healthcare system.  In the recent years there has been some research, but the problem needs to be addressed in the media so patients and families can protect themselves as well.


Even when a patient is combative the nurses are frequently reminded that they need to put patients first.  Putting patients first becomes the nurses job and by doing this the nurses are overlooked.   The nurses are simply told where the door is if they do not like it!  Nurses are also a valuable and an intricate part of the health care team.  As it is true that patients need to be kept safe, nurses and healthcare workers need to protect themselves and their colleagues, families and loved ones from a lifetime of harm. This nurse wants all nurses to protect themselves.  This is as important as protecting the patient and family in a long run.  If you are not able to protect yourself and work as a team you will not be able to protect other patients.  This becomes quite a problem when the threat of losing your job and financial security is at stake.  Unfortunately, the threat is very real.  You either do the job or leave.  It’s still a black and white issue. You do not want to leave with a devastating and life threatening injury that changes your life forever and your families life forever.

Prevention is key to stopping Workplace Violence! Protect our NURSES!

This is only one example of the millions upon millions of assaults that occur at the hands of patients.  This time it severely injured this nurse and the rest is incomprehensible.  In the fall of 1991 was amazingly beautiful even after the uneventful death of my healthy father-in-law September 10 from a ruptured bladder.  This was a tragic and preventable loss of life especially for my husband.  There are so many preventable deaths within our healthcare system.  We need to be proactive and stop this from happening. What are some of the things we can do as patients, family members, healthcare providers, nurse?  I will address this in a future blog. Learn how to protect your loved one in a health crisis.

What a busy time of year it was!  It was only six weeks after the death of my father-in-law …  I was working full time 10 hour day shift so I could attend graduate school.  Graduate school was underway for me and my son was in high school. He was an excellent student with a flawless attendance record, a young man with so much potential, with so much creativity and maturity beyond his years. My teen daughter had already a life of issues with an acquired brain injury but was doing fairly well. Her acquired brain injury is also known as mild cerebral palsy.  She deals with all the related complications including bladder implants, seizures, learning disabilities with educational accommodations, behavioral changes that lead themselves to catastrophic reactions, just to name a few of her symptoms, but all seemed to be stable.  That is as stable as things could get for her.  Her life has always been unpredictable and what I did not know was how unpredictable my life was about to become with a traumatic brain injury.

Within, less then a fraction of a second my life and everyone around me changed forever.  I thought everything was going well. A supportive husband and children on a daily basis. Little did I know how things were about to change.  I just attended and was a speaker at the National Rehabilitation Nurses convention in Kansas City, Kansas and was presenting the Community Program and Pilot Research Study I was implementing with a colleague.  In May 1991 I was awarded a Community Award from my employer for my dedication and community services including the pilot program “Caring Children” within the local school system, teaching Boy Scouts and Brownies about disabilities and rehabilitation, volunteering at the bloodmobiles, and other local programs.  I guess I was “burning the candle at both ends” as my mother would say.  It was not what I did, but who I was.  I returned to my staff nurse position as a rehabilitation Nurse on a Head Injury/Neurology Unit at a prominent Rehabilitation Unit in Northeast Ohio.  It was a pleasure to go to work.  I enjoyed the clients and families as well as all the staff.  It was my career and their was nothing I disliked about it at that time.  Anything I disliked I helped to change.   In retrospect, I see so much more.  Hence the reason to help others in the same predicament…prevention, before it happens to another!

So many opportunities in Nursing! Don't be the patient?!

I was just beginning to explore all my options in Nursing, hence attending graduate school and writing.Given the fact I had a few days off work to attend the convention I returned to work as a staff nurse with all the honors that many nurses face!  All the staff nurses on this unit … my colleagues were burnt out from the atrocious behaviors of a single male patient and his visitors over the weekend.

Monday, October 28  went well.  I had all the patience in the world, and dealing with a violent patient never bothered me.  It was a good feeling to ease the burden of all the other nurses. My personality was a relaxed and never anxious person.  Everything just rolled off my shoulders, so nothing was bothersome… So I thought. A little fear might have been better, given this situation. I had endless energy, and slept little.  Something I later found out I could not function or live without after the injury.

And the wheels keep spinning.

On Tuesday, October 29 I had graduate classes so I did not work.  I drove to Kent State University with my friend.  We shared so many moments along our repeated one hour drive to and from school.  I was nearing completion of my professional journal article Children’s Responses to a Parent with Disability for Journal of Rehabilitation Nursing, later published in 1994.

Now that brings me to the day that changed my life forever October 30, 1991!


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One response to “A Journey into Darkness … From Nurse to Patient.Traumatic brain injury

  1. Susan Delamarter

    February 7, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    Very well written post. It will be helpful to anybody who employess it, including yours truly :). Keep up the good work – i will definitely read more posts.


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