Working with the mentally ill or criminally insane is definitely one that only a few among us are well-suited to tackle. What a tough gig.
It’s always interesting to peek behind the curtain, and these 15 psych ward nurses are here with some truly jaw-dropping tales.
15. Naked as a jaybird
Years ago, I was a student nurse doing my psych rotation in a catholic facility. The nuns still wore habits and the building was like something out of the dark ages. I’ll skip talking about the line of patients waiting to undergo ECT treatment in the basement and instead tell you about Maggie. She was a tragic case. She had been on Lithium for years and it really kept her psychotic episodes in check until reached toxic levels and could no longer take it.
One hot summer afternoon, we heard this banshee screaming coming from Maggie’s room. We rushed in there to see what was going on. Entering the room, we are greeted by a scene I will never forget. This late seventies woman is standing on the window ledge, naked as a jay bird, screaming through the window screens at the nuns in the courtyard, “you fucking penguins are going to burn in hell”. The poor sisters are scrambling to and fro trying to get away from the ranting madwoman’s viscous verbal assault as we were trying desperately to pull her off the grating.
I knew then and there, that I would never become a psych nurse.
14. Those were the days
Prison guard here: guy cut his scrotum open to let people know he was serious (dont know about what)
Guy 2 : cut off a butt cheek (or a big part of) and threw it at me as i tried to stop him.
Guy 3: punched a wall 3 times really hard (bloody knuckles) and told me he punched the devil cos he was telling him to stab me but im cool so he told the devil to fuck off.
Guy 4: pretended to drown himself in a toilet ( basically splashed pee on his face and rolled around crying
Guy 5: had sex with a window air vent and was complient yet confused when i asked him to stop
Those were the days….
13. He played the piano like a pro
Had a catatonic guy who could play the piano like a pro, classic, jazz, ragtime, but otherwise just sat in his chair and stared.
12. She wanted to be a vampire
Not me, but someone I knew was in a ward with a girl who wanted to be a vampire and drank blood from her own tampons.
It’s as atrocious as it sounds. She was around 16 and schizophrenic.
11. That’s MY tooth!
I’m an RN in boston in a psych hospital and I’ve seen some shit.
One of the things I’ll never ever forget was we had this manic guy that had been transferred from another unit cause he kept getting in fights over there and all the other patients were trying to attack him. I was still working nights back then and at about 3am he came up to me and said his tooth hurt and he needed to see a dentist right away. I said I don’t have a dentist for him to see but when the doctor comes in the morning we can take a look.
Gave him some Tylenol and sent him back to bed.
About 5 minutes later he came out saying it really hurt and he needed to see a dentist to pull his tooth. Again I told him theres no dentist but maybe I can get some more pain meds. In the middle of me explaining this to him he sticks his hand in his mouth and rips his molar out of his head and handed it to me. Blood starts pouring out of his mouth but he did even to seem to notice. After I clean him up and get the bleeding to stop and call the doctor to get him some ativan he goes “make sure you give me that tooth back when I leave, that’s MY tooth don’t try and steal it”. Fucking wild shit.
10. He was given a whole tub
This was actually in a state hospital that is part of the prison system for mentally ill offenders.
Patient asked for Vaseline. Which is fine. They can have Vaseline, whatever.
But this patient was given a whole tub, so of course he stripped completely naked, covered himself in Vaseline, and ran. It was a secure unit, and he didn’t escape, but we couldn’t get him back into his cell all shift because he was too fucking slippery.
No more tubs.
9. I never corrected her
I was a CNA for about 4 years and the saddest ever was my client/resident constantly thought I was her daughter. She went to Harvard and was an extremely brilliant lady in her time. She was non verbal but every time I walked into her room she would exclaim “Elizabeth you came”. I loved this lady so much, she would only eat when I fed her she was extremely combative with everyone but me. I ended up quitting my job there but visited her every single day. To the point that her family kind of accepted me as their family. I finally found out that Elizabeth took her own life at 21 and the fact that she thought I was her gave her extreme joy. I never corrected her and I like to think I gave her peace when she passed holding my hand. She was an amazing lady and I miss her to this day.
8. All of our mouths were wide open
We had an older black lady who would walk up and down the ward constantly mumbling. It never stopped. I think she would get something like Thorazine to calm her down but she would fight it and her eyes would be all droopy and she’d slow down but she kept going. Nobody understood a word she said and she was there for at least over 6 months. She was punched out once by a patient while he was on the phone because she kept walking by ranting. He just lost it.
Anyway I’m up there doing a patrol one day (I was security) and shes ranting and walking up and down the ward as usual and they call her to come get her meal. She sits down and opens her tray and stops ranting and states clear as day: “I didn’t order no diabetic tray BITCH.”
Every last person turned to her and all of our mouths were wide open. That was the only thing she ever said clearly.
7. Sure as shit
We had a psych patient on our floor that wasn’t really “crazy” crazy, just really confused and unpleasant in general.
One night I was mixing his drink with some thickener, and per usual he started yelling about me poisoning him. I explained what it was and that we’re all here to help him, not hurt him, and he responds with, “I’m just going to die.” His vitals were fine, he was alert, no red flags, and like I said, he was always pretty unpleasant so I didn’t think much of it.
Sure as shit, he coded an hour later and we never got him back.
Edit: coded is slang for “code blue” which is what they call over intercom/pagers when someone’s stopped breathing, or their heart has stopped.
6. Looking for booze
Obligatory not me, but my former best friend told me the story.
She wasn’t a nurse but did an internship at a psych ward for adults and part of her internship was supervising the adults outside in the garden, making sure they didn’t harm themselves, others and/or run away and to talk to them.
She and about 5 patients were outside on a beautiful summer day, each relaxing and smoking in silence, basically just chilling like fully functioning adults. Until one woman, about early 70s (no alzheimers or something) took her chair, pulled it right next to my friend, stepped on it, clumsily climbed the stone wall surrounding the small outside area, yelled “Bye, bitches!” and ran away.
My friend and the others just sat there, staring after her, not being able to believe what they’d just seen.
She was found 15 minutes later, just wandering through the city looking for booze.
I just can’t not laugh at the thought of this granny climbing the wall and yelling “Bye, bitches” while fastly waddling away
5. Problem solved!
This might not fit perfect, but I love this story.
How about in an inpatient addiction clinic? The first one that comes to mind was something I witnessed between a patient and another floor tech. We had a man who was in serious detox, drug if choice was meth. He was throwing a huge tantrum, not uncommon in DTs, people will do just about anything to get a fix. We weren’t a locked facility, so it wasn’t like he was stuck there. He genuinely wanted help, that’s why he stuck around, and we were there to listen and help him through the shakes, hallucinations, and other symptoms.
He was slamming his fists on the desk at this point, and he had started just yelling “I just want some fucking ice!” (Slang for crystal meth) Well, the tech with me was inexperienced, although much older than me, and while I talked to him and tried to calm him down, she went back to our staff kitchen and got him a glass of ice. Like, frozen water. She brought it out to him and put it in his hand like, Problem Solved!, and the guys just froze with confusion, staring at it. The patient and I both realized at the same time she thought he wanted ice and we just started at eachother and started laughing. He was in for a rough couple of days, but I’ve never seen someone jump from near psychotic episode to giggling so fast.
4. I couldn’t have seen what I saw
When I was in nursing school I had a clinical in the state funded psyc ward downtown. I was assigned to sit with this one girl to “monitor” her behavior. She spent about thirty minutes doing nothing but eating pudding cups with a plastic spoon. She ate like 6 of them in half an hour. Then out of nowhere she very calmly licked her spoon completely clean and pulled her shirt sleeve up before shoving the entire spoon into an incision in her arm near her bicep… then very calmly said, “Ohps.”
The nurses that worked there didn’t believe me. They kept saying I was making it up and that I couldn’t have seen what I saw.
Only later on, like four hours later (it was a 12 hr clinical), the orderly notice the girl had some blood on her shirt. He took her into her room to change her clothes and noticed that an incision on her arm had dehisced and had been bleeding.
Then eventually agreed to send her to the hospital for testing.
The X-ray showed the entire spoon, sucked into the fat of her upper arm, through an incision where they’d removed a birth control implant in the week before…
Apparently the girl had slowly been picking at the sutures and opening it bit by bit until it was deep enough to fit an entire plastic spoon….
The girl admitted that the “ohps” was because it had gotten sucked in and couldn’t be pulled out, not because she’s stuck a spoon in her arm….
3. I had to gather my thoughts
Psych ward counselor here. Early in my career I had a teenage girl with suicidal ideations and severe depression. The year before, on thanksgiving, her dad pulled a gun from under the dinner table and blew his brains out in front of everyone. I normally form a response pretty quickly, even a “wow,” but when she told me I got quiet, leaned back, exhaled, and had to gather my thoughts.
2. Straight out of the movies
I’m not a nurse but was a patient once. Giant dude got upset one dude changed the channel from a football game he was watching and smashed his skull with his fists. Not fully, but enough that when they brought him back a few days later he started seizing and had to be removed again. Didn’t see him again.
Also, there was one lady who was straight out of the movies. Walking around preaching the end of days loudly and sweating like crazy.
1. Two of her own fingers
Not a nurse, pharmacist.
Had one of our Clozapine patients miss a monthly meeting to discuss their medication. Called around, found out she was in the ICU having eaten two of her own fingers then visited her mother for coffee, still bleeding.
Had a friend tell me of another patient, made a cut in his thigh and reopened it regularly until the whole thing was a scar tissue cavern, by some miracle avoiding infection. Started using his “meat pocket” to hold pens and coins and anything he could collect in his ward. Nobody knew until a paperclip pierced the side and he finally wound up with an infection that took him to ICU where they found his stash.
Yep, I’ll stick with sitting on my butt with a computer!