NHS nurse attacked on mental health unit: ‘I still have nightmares’

NHS nurse attacked on mental health unit: ‘I still have nightmares’

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A former mental health nurse has said she was diagnosed with PTSD and still has nightmares after being attacked by a patient two years ago.

Sharon Morris told talkRADIO’s Mike Graham and Dawn Neesom: “The bruises heal but I have been left with no sense of smell, which is interesting.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said he will bring in a series of measures to protect nurses like Ms Morris, as new figures show that violence against NHS staff is at its highest level since 2013.

“But, the psychological effects are really profound. I became very reclusive and I was diagnosed with PTSD after the incident.

“I had several rounds of counselling and I wasn’t able to return to work for about three months.

“When I did return in a different work situation, still nursing but with a different group of clients, I probably wasn’t actually very good for the first couple of months.

“I was still very jumpy, and I think it is only in the last four months that I have really been back to normal.

“I still have nightmares.”


'Full force in the face' 

Ms Morris was attacked by a patient in September 2016 while working in a mental health unit.

“I was working in a medium secure unit so we work very long-term with these patients,” she said.

“It isn’t just about strangers coming into A&E, it is also about people who you think you have a reasonable relationship with.

“Had I written in my notes that day I would have said that we had had a good day.

“We were on a garden break and several patients went outside, and there was just myself, a colleague and one patient left.

"I saw him lunge towards my colleague so I alerted her and she ended up with a glancing blow to the side of the head.

“But, she managed to escape. I made eye contact and said the patient’s name. This was the care plan and how we deal with these situations.

“Unfortunately on this occasion, he just jumped over and started hitting me full force in the face. It was probably about six times until I passed out.

“The next thing I knew I was with staff in an ambulance to A&E, it was a very unpleasant incident.”

'We are highly trained' 


Mr Hancock’s NHS Violence Reduction Strategy will also contain better training on how NHS staff can handle violent situations, but Ms Morris said nurses on her unit were “highly trained”.

“We are very highly trained, and in some ways it is the safest place to work because you know who you have got in there,” she said.

“But on the other hand, it is a secure unit so people can’t just dive in and help you.

“There is an alarm system but when you are being hit you are not necessarily thinking about pulling an alarm. You are just trying to defend yourself.”

“I would say certainly on that unit, probably every one of us had been assaulted in the last year.

“It is very high prevalence and the trouble is the more minor assaults are not pursued.

“That is normalised and seen as part of the job, which it is not. It is not okay to get hurt at work.”