Patient sitters’ disturbing, firsthand encounters
‘In a situation like that, I want to know, what do I do?’
A recently published study1 that included numerous focus groups and interviews with healthcare “sitters” documented a number of firsthand accounts of disturbing and violent patient encounters, including the following:
- Sitter: “When I came in, the sitter that I was taking over for had not even left, [the male patient] touched me on my butt and was smiling. I told him, ‘Don’t do that.’ I had to hold him to try to prevent him from falling out of bed. He tried it again, so I had to call the nurse ... I told her, ‘I can’t take care of this guy. They need to get a guy for him, because he is touching me inappropriately.”
- Sitter: This [patient] hated me so much because of how I was trying to prevent him from falling ... So this guy was so mad, he smashed my food and that was about may be nine hours after I had been there. I was so tired. So he smiled and his hand is full of poop because he has been messing around with stuff and you know. Then the nurse came in and that is when they relieved me for break, after nine hours.”
- Sitter (speaking about communicating with another sitter during handoffs): “We do our best ... besides the basics of what we need to do for the patient, the other information that’s more personal ... watch out for this certain family member. There are some times when it is not communicated, and there are some situations I feel like nurses know a little bit more personally what’s going on with that patient that as sitters we don’t get. And we kind of face that head-on when we’re sitting in that room.”
- Unit nurse: “Sitters, um, sitters are harder. Usually we try to catch them before they go in the room so we can kind of give them a little bit of what’s going on because otherwise we kind of have to stand at the doorway and talk about it, in which case we ... can’t really talk as much about the social aspects.”
- Nurse manager: “We don’t give the sitters information that they need to know to sit with the patient ... The nurses don’t do a good job consistently of letting the sitter know the real reason why they’re there.”
- Sitter assigned to a patient at risk of falls, describing exchange with nurse: “The nurse came and said ... ‘He’ll listen to you if you [verbally] redirect him.’ I said, ‘Well, ma’am, I just tried to re-direct him and he wouldn’t listen to me.’ [She said] ‘Well, what are you [sitters] here for?’ [I said] ‘I cannot physically hold this guy down in the bed.’ She said, ‘Well, just let him fall then.’ ... This ain’t no kind of conversation to be having. We need to kind of ﬁgure out what we going to do about this situation here. [The patient] don’t want me holding him down, and I don’t want to get myself in no trouble. [The nurse] is not cooperating with me, so in a situation like that, I want to know, what do I do?”
- Sitter: “One time I told the nurse that the patient had hit me and she said, ‘Well, tell me if he hits you again.’ I’m like ... ‘I’ve got glasses on here. I can’t afford new glasses.’”
- Sitter: “I have never reported any of my events. Like one time I was bitten, but she did not break my skin. I just had little marks, so I didn’t really feel the need ... Even with the guy I worked with last week ... he did not really physically touch me. Though he charged at me and people had to stop him ... there was not really anything to report.”
- Schoenfisch, AL, Pompeii, LA, Lipscomb, HJ, et al. An urgent need to understand and address the safety and well-being of hospital “sitters.” Am J Ind Med 2015;58:1278–1287.
A recently published study that included numerous focus groups and interviews with healthcare “sitters” documented a number of firsthand accounts of disturbing and violent patient encounters.
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