V.A. Nurse Assaulted By A Patient

I began my nursing career at a local VA Hospital in 1993. While providing medical care to a fully competent veteran patient he assaulted me by grabbing my thumb and pulling it up behind my back. He held me in this hold for quite sometime, I called for assistance at the same time struggling to get away. I was able to finally break free but as I did he grabbed my wrist and also bent it back.

At this time, nurses began to arrive in the room and break the hold that he had on me. I was then sent to the Emergency Room where X-rays were taken of my thumb, wrist and hand. The Orthopedic, MD, that that I had torn ligaments and tendons and he placed me in a splint and was told to return in one week. During that week I had severe burning and swelling in my hand and wrist.

When I returned in one week he then placed me in a spica cast and sent me on my way. Within two days I returned to his office with burning pain, swelling and numbness in my fingers. He was not happy with me, he stated to me, " do you know how much these casts cost?" Personally I could have cared less, this was my hand. By the way, this Orthopedic doc only seen patients for hips and knees!

Well.... he split the cast, moved it around and taped it closed and I wore it like this for another 6 weeks. When he removed it 6 weeks later, my thumb was considerably shorter than the other and it had a large knot on the joint which he had no explanation for.

As my condition was no better, they decided to send me to a hand specialist. ( I should note that I was never advised that I had a choice of physicians from the very beginning). Well, this new physician was no better. He ordered 6 months of physical therapy and after this failed he decided to do surgery. Following this I had extensive scar tissue and severe nerve damage.

I returned to light duty work duty work in an office setting as a program assistant. I did this for three years as best I could coping with the pain.

Then my boss in her infinite wisdom decided I could do Home Health work. She stated that the only patients I would see would be medically stable. Wrong...they sent me to the home of a patient that had just been released from the hospital, and he was completely unstable. During my visit the patient stated to me that he needed to use the bathroom. As he stood up he began to fall forward, I grabbed him with my already weak extremity and pulled him back to a sitting position. In doing so I immediately knew that I had injured my shoulder.

Upon returning to the office I advised my supervisor of the incident and was advised to go to employee health. They stated to me that they would try to get me in to an Orthopedic doctor as soon as possible. That was 10 days later. It would have been even longer if I had not finally got upset and demanded that they do something. It ended up that I had a torn rotator cuff.

Well, to make a long story short I had two shoulder surgeries. After the last surgery I developed severe pain and a burning sensation like I had never known. The surgeon then sent me to a Pain Management Specialist who stated that he suspected that I had RSD. When I went back to the surgeon he stated that there was nothing else he could do for me and stated that I should continue to see the Pain doctor which I have been doing and continue to do.

The RSD has now spread to my other upper extremity and my right lower extremity. The prognosis is poor. I am now permanently disabled all from this traumatic injury that could have prevented had my employer taken proper action. They had allowed this behavior among patients. They never supported their staff. During my short time as a nurse there I had seen many nurses injured as a result of patients with this type of behavior.

I hold my employer to blame for my injury, as a matter of fact, I was told to keep my mouth shut and talk to no one regarding this issue. When this incident occurred it should have immediately been turned over to security, which it wasn't. This patient was never held accountable for his actions, nor any of the others that injured any of my coworkers. This is not acceptable. I am sure that until things are corrected it will continue to happen. Workers are afraid to challenge the system in fear that they will lose their jobs.

I am no longer afraid of the system or Workers' Compensation. I will stand up for my rights and the rights of others. They will no longer walk all over me. I worked hard and I did nothing wrong, I did not deserve this. They have taken away every thing from me but they will not take away my dignity.

Until Congress and others take a long, hard look at what is happening with this Workers' Compensation system, people will continue to suffer. These injured people have suffered enough. Let them walk in our shoes for just one day and I promise you that things would change. I invite any of them to live my life for just one day, let them suffer my pain for just one day, and see if they think that the pennies that they bestow on us is enough.

Dealing with Workers' Compensation through my work has caused more that enough stress. The so called, Work Comp Specialist, leaves something to be desired. She has been less than helpful. Every turn is a road block. I understand that there are many false claims but for God sake help the ones that have honest claims. I asked for in writing a copy of my file, it took almost a month. Reason: the copier was broke. Do you know how many copiers there are in the VA system? One barrier after another. This is just one example, I could go on and on.

I feel that the injured worker has suffered enough. We need someone to help us. We need a voice in Congress. Maybe this will happen someday. I only hope it will be soon.



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