I decided to become a nurse because I cared for others and I wanted to make a difference. I didn’t think that doing so might expose me to both verbal and physical aggression. I was only eighteen.
As soon as I experienced my first placement in mental health, I very quickly realised that work-related violence was commonplace in the field I had chosen to work in. I could either run a mile or learn to deal with this. I chose the latter.
Over the years, I have been called every name under the sun and have been introduced to some very colourful language. I have also been physically assaulted and hurt during restraint, all in the name of doing my job.
How do I deal with this? Although each experience affects me less and less, it still gets stored in the library of my mind.
I tell everyone that I am thick skinned but I’m not really sure what that means.
I cope by thinking of all the amazing, positive experiences I have had as a nurse and thankfully there are far more positives.
I talk to peers and this reassures me that I am not the only target. I listen to their coping strategies. Talking about how I’m feeling helps me remember why I do the job I love.
It’s important to try and take a compassionate stance, and understand that when patients or relatives are being aggressive, mostly they are doing so because they are unwell or distressed. They also need our help.
Ultimately, I use my own resilience. Thick skinned or not, I love being a nurse and even during the difficult times, I wouldn’t choose to do anything else.