“So I heard you came from psych” she said, with what I could only assume was her version of a grin. “I’ve got a couple of patients you might be interested in”.
“Super” I said with so much sarcasm I cringed a little bit.
“The guy in 306 has been giving us trouble; he’s definitely psychotic and has been combative with staff” she said. Awesome I thought, keeping my sarcasm on the inside this time.
“Let’s have a look” I said, not realizing we were already standing right in front of his room.
Gloria walked in ahead of me of course, I doubted there would ever be as situation she was willing to take a back seat for. I was fine with this because if there really were an actively psychotic patient in there she would be the first one hit with a flying chair. Instead, we walked in on a shockingly thin, feeble looking old man asleep in his bed. Without a word, she started poking and prodding a wound dressing on his right arm. He woke up obviously startled and immediately pulled his arm away. He was visibly terrified and started squirming as best he could toward the head of the bed away from Gloria (kind of like I wanted to all day). His physical ability to move was clearly impaired, and had not said a word yet, making me wonder if he was even able to.
“Here we go again!” Gloria announced with exasperation. “Mr. Murphy calm down!” She bellowed. Wow I thought. Who would have guessed Gloria’s people skills were not quite adequate for mental health? Sadly, I’m sure she had no idea just how inappropriate and ineffective her drill sergeant approach was in this situation. There were so many things wrong here I didn’t know where to start.
“May I” I asked, offering to step in, not to help Gloria, but out of mercy for this obviously mismanaged patient.
“Be my guest” she said, throwing her hands up and backing away as if she had been at this for hours.
I approached the bed, but stopped just short of arms reach, careful not to invade his personal bubble. “Hi Mr. Murphy, I’m David, do you mind if I take a look at your arm?” I asked in the most non-threatening tone I could generate, attempting to re-set the entire nature of his encounter with us. I was afraid the chance had passed because of Gloria’s mindless lack of tact. He just stared at me for a moment, maintaining his look of bewilderment. I smiled and just pointed at his arm to nonverbally restate my question. He didn’t speak, but slowly and cautiously moved his arm toward me. I advanced with equal caution, more for his sake than my own. I gently removed his dressing and assessed the wound, “does this hurt” I asked. A very faint “no” came from under his breath. I redressed the wound, quietly talking to him the entire time, explaining each step in simple language I was now sure he understood. Although he did not respond verbally again, it I felt as if he appreciated my method.
I turned around to see Gloria’s eyebrows raised as if to express some sort of disbelief. There were also now two more staff members standing in the doorway, looking at me as if I had just performed some sort of magic trick. “Wow, you’ve got the touch” one of them said, smiling as she walked away. “Huh, must be because you’re a guy” Gloria said, wasting no time taking a verbal dump on the situation. She charged past me toward the patient, who was now calm despite her rabid Rhinoceros like presence, grabbed the curtain, and rudely pulled it shut. For some reason hospital staff often seem to think those curtains around the bed that provide the illusion of privacy are also soundproof, Gloria was no exception. “It’s time to send this one to the looney bin” she muttered, and stomped her way out of the room.
Now who’s the psycho? (Book excerpt) — Kelsey David Burnham–