Behavioral Health: Game over.

By: Debbie Moore-Black, RN

He was a tall healthy psychiatric technician. Experienced in this line of work. He was a CNA but he wanted more. He wanted to help heal the troubled. The forgotten. The neglected.
And behavioral health was his niche.

Every day he would lead the way with therapy sessions in this group. This was Intensive management. The intermittent home for the paranoid schizophrenics. Bipolar. MDD. They came in all shapes and sizes. Wealthy. Homeless, from prison. Neglected and abused from an earlier life. Parents with mental health issues passed on to them. Verbally and physically abused. Neglected of love and comfort and basic needs of living, of shelter, of a stable mom and dad.
Beaten physically and with constant verbal abuse.
And nowhere to turn.
No skills to fall back on. Distraught, lonely and vacant were their lives.
Jonathan was the best psychiatric technician. We could always trust him. We always felt safe when Jonathan was working.
He loved his patients. He always went the extra mile.
Until that fateful day.

Corey was a loner. Never graduated from high school. He was a drifter and easily went in and out of prisons.
He was born with cute chubby cheeks and dimples but birthed into poverty, neglect and violence. His 13 year old mother and his grandmother cared for him. But he only remembered physical and verbal abuse. He didn’t know his dad. In prison for murdering a friend from a drug deal gone wrong.
He remembers mom opening up dog food to feed him. The rats. He remembers well. And the best thing he could do was escape the filth, the decay and the lack of love from his hardened mother.
Schizophrenia was a common thread in this bloodline. With no medication compliance, no follow ups with free therapy sessions….

Corey had several felonies. Sexual assault. Robbing a bank, brutally mangling a stranger.

He was stuck in jail but he knew the rules to get a free pass out. Even if it was temporary!
In the jail cell he knew the tricks: like
put a sheet around his neck and threaten Suicide. Smear your feces on the wall. Stop eating or drinking…..
And he would be admitted.

We called our unit “Hotel Hilton”. Because it was luxury compared to the jail cells.
Three hot meals, refreshments, therapy sessions, basketball games in the gym, medications to calm you down, quiet your anxiety and anger and medication to let your restless soul sleep.

They came in frequently to our unit. Some wanted to be called the Virgin Mary. Or Jesus. Or cousins to Beyoncé or P. Diddy.
Some saw the FBI gazing at them through the cameras in the ceiling. Or the computer chip that miraculously planted into their brain by aliens.
We had them all.

Corey was hungry and at lunch he asked for “double portions”
Jonathan, the tech said he could only get him double portions from an MD order.
That could take time to get a physician approval.
Corey was angry and agitated. He wanted more food now.
Corey put Jonathan, into a headlock. And attempted to strangle Jonathan. Jonathan went limp and fainted.
Our male tech was dazed and confused, wheeled down stat to the Emergency Department . A CT scan was done to his brain.
Jonathan took a workman’s comp leave.
But he never seemed to be the same again.

I had been assaulted twice in this unit. A fist right to my jaw knocking me down to the floor. A beating to my head.
Several other nurses have been assaulted also.

I sent a email to our managers and CEO. Stating we had to be pro-active in this unit for safety. How we needed PSO’s (Public Safety Officers) in our unit 24/7. How they needed to make rounds every hour. How we needed some type of alarm device in our pockets should we be attacked.
And nothing has happened.
I received a verbal “reprimand” for adding the CEO to my email. I was told “He is not a part of our chain of command”
And nothing was done to ensure our safety.

Besides receiving my own therapy for PTSD for being physically attacked twice by these patients, my biggest fear was not being able to retire without some great injury coming my way.
A simple “snap” To my neck and then I’d know it was
“Game over”
I made it out alive but swore to myself “Never again”

Hospitals have those cute catchy names and phrases like “Excellence in care”, “dedication beyond measure”, “Enhancing Life”, “Incredible medicine, Incredible people”….. and the list goes on across our country.
Some of these catchy phrases are merely smoke screens…. Because the healthcare workers that are in the trenches…..
We know the truth.

One thought on “Behavioral Health: Game over.

  1. Now that you no longer work at the ‘Hotel Hilton’ be ready for the ‘Hotel California’. PTSD in the nursing profession has not really ever been addressed appropriately and nurses never had time to realize this due to usual daily abuses in that field as part of an accepted ‘mission’ that they got used to by fault. You ‘checked out’ from risk of your life being extinguished after many decades of hard work helping others but the embers of ‘ptsd’ flames are following you home after that ‘game’ of service. Thank you for using your life to try to protect the ‘team of compassionate’ angels by you writing of your experiences. Looking forward to reading more of your articles ! Great job Debbie !


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s