There's nothing that sets me on edge more than being asked to review an agitated patient. An agitated patient could be anything from someone who is mildly confused and slightly disorientated to someone who is throwing punches and spitting at staff. An agitated patient on its own is a difficult situation, but the icing on the cake is if they're also aggressive. If I can have a night shift where I'm not being called to someone who wants to hit me around the head, then it's been a quiet shift as far as I'm concerned.
When I rang the ward and they told me the details, my heart sank. I walked with heavy footsteps all the way there. What was I going to be walking into? What was my plan? How would I examine the patient? How bad was their confusion? It's tricky because each patient is different.
It was worse than I imagined.
I arrived on a dimly lit ward just before midnight and immediately I could see where the commotion was. All the staff were pacing around in one room. I looked through the patient's notes and the list of medications first to find a possible reason for their agitation. I was reading the words but as soon as I was on the next line, I'd forgotten everything I'd just read. Truthfully, I was stalling. I was trying to get my thoughts in order before I saw the patient. Every so often, I heard a loud high pitched voice yelling at the nurses and I knew this was going to be hard work.
When I got to the bedside, I got a full blast of the abuse. I could just about make out her large wild eyes and a tall thin frame on the bed. But when she stopped to stare at me, I think my core temperature dropped a bit.
I tried to examine her but she was uncooperative and I really believed she would hit me. Even if she was unaware of what she was doing, I don't want to be assaulted at work (or anywhere). Whether I am hit by someone who is drunk or just confused it will hurt just the same.
It was a hard one. But I guess that's how nights generally are. I was called to see another one before the night was over but thankfully that was much better, the patient had calmed down before I arrived and was happy to sit out and munch on a slice of toast.