Violent patients are a growing concern. In a Virginia case, a psychiatrist was beaten by a patient and suffered a traumatic brain injury, a fractured eye socket, concussion and skull fracture. He is now depressed, has post traumatic stress disorder and vision impairment which prevents him from working.
Violent patient causes injuries
The August 2011 Trial Magazine write up explains that the violent patient twice approached the doctor while he was employed at Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center. During the first encounter, the patient made statements to the physician before he was escorted away. In the second encounter, the patient formed his hand into the shape of a gun and pressed it against the doctor’s head and said “bang.”
The patient approached the doctor at the nursing station, and beat him.
The standard of care issues raised in this case related to the inadequate security provided. Although violent incidents occurred every few days at the facility, it retained only one part-time security guard to patrol the parking lot.
In Shetty v. Psychiatric Solutions, Inc., the jury awarded $5.35 million. Post trial motions are pending. Case site: No. CL09-1873 (Virginia, Norfolk City Cir. Nov 22, 2010.)
Evaluation of these kinds of cases is based on determining if an event was foreseeable. Dr. Shetty’s attorneys argued that the patient had threatening behavior, a documented history of violence and was involuntarily committed to the facility. He was placed on the lowest watch level.
Standard of care
Violence against staff may take place anywhere in the hospital. Emergency and psychiatric nurses are particularly sensitized to this issue, as they are more common targets. As this case shows, the facility has an obligation to protect its staff from violent patients by accurately identifying the risk of violence (to the extent possible) and providing safeguards for staff.
Legal nurse consultants may help attorneys with these kinds of cases. My LNC company’s nurses assisted attorneys with psychiatric cases including evaluating the events in light of the standards of care, providing the relevant standards for the time frame involved, creating a chronology of events and or supplying psychiatric healthcare experts.
Pat Iyer is president of The Pat Iyer Group. She is very glad she does not work in a psychiatric hospital.