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When Your Abuser is the Patient's Friend Featured

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A few weeks ago, the hospital unit that I was assigned to that day faced an unusual situation.  A man came onto our floor to pick-up a discharging patient.  There is nothing too unusual about that until you know that this man has a legal restraint against him due to stalking charges placed nearly twenty years ago.  Because of that previous event, he served many years in jail.  The person who he is not allowed to be around is one of our nurses.  As far as we know, he did not see nor recognize her, and does not know that she works here.  She was not yet a nurse when they last encountered each other.

This created an awkward situation for several reasons.  This nurse freaked out when she saw him, and immediately had concerns for her safety.  We hid this nurse in a back room, unable to do any work due to her emotional state and safety.  This pulled one nurse off of the floor and at least one other nurse checking in on her often to make sure that she was ok.

In this situation, we alerted security to the situation, but they were not able to help much.  They could ask him to leave, but would have to tell him why.  The nurse in question panicked at the thought of him knowing that she was there and potentially waiting for her.  She decided that the best plan of action was him not knowing that she works here, and she was hidden away. 

I can only imagine that this case is not unheard of.  There are a lot of people out there with restraining orders; some of them have to be nurses, EMTs, police officers, etc.  What is one supposed to do when that person strolls through the doors to visit a patient or perhaps they are the patient?

Your work is a place in which you should feel safe to be.  There are always hazards, but not many that are untrained for (contagious diseases, transferring patients, natural disasters, crazy people) and we take precautions against them.  When it comes to the public, anyone and everyone may venture onto a unit or become part of an emergency wherever that may be.  Does there come a point where we are expected to ignore legal restraints and help them, their friend, or their family regardless of their presence and our safety?  Or, do we maintain distance, stay safe, and increase the workload of those around us?  I do not know which is the correct answer, do you?

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