Friday, September 29, 2006

Elopement and a Cuppa Joe

Perry, a Mental Health Specialist (the folks who do a ton of the patient care work around the hospital) comes to me Monday morning as I'm finishing up a discharge and asks if I've seen Curt, one of our new patients. Perry was doing rounds and saw Curt on 15" checks at 10:45, but now it was about 11:05 and he couldn't find him anywhere.

I call "Staff!" to alert the other MHS's that I'd like to have some help, and I get a reasonably good response. "Perry can't find Curt - can we all look?". Sometimes staffers doing rounds can't find a person because they're in the shower or sleeping in another patient's bed by accident or maybe just hiding in a corner somewhere. We spread out and do a thorough sweep. No Curt.

Somehow Psych Doc ends up at the end of the hallway and pushes one of the fire exit doors and no alarm sounds - the door pushes open just like *that*. Staff can use the doors by keying them open, but we're not supposed to because sometimes patients can go out if you're not watching carefully. The doors work a certain way to remain safe yet patients can't escape through them easily unless someone leaves one open.

I jogged down the stairs wondering if I'd catch a glimpse of Curt but no luck. Outside there is a reasonably high fence in a courtyard that will not open without a key. I found a piece of wood leaned up against the fence where he must have climbed over.

I came back inside and called the police. They usually locate patients who get out in a matter of minutes - some more easily than others. Curt was wearing a hospital gown, a yellow wristband, and was sans pants.

He was down the street at a coffee stand having a "free" coffee as the owner of the stand called us. From what I understand, the espresso stand owner motioned him over (believing him to be one of ours) and said "Hey buddy, free coffee today - under new management!!", sat the patient down in a patio chair on the deck, gave him a cup of coffee, and called us.

We've got some great neighbors.

Oh, and we checked the video and one of the utility guys had gone out the door. Looks like Curt caught the door and kept it from closing all the way, and then snuck out after the utility guy had gone around the corner.

(All names in this completely fictional story have been changed. In fact, it never happened. That's the ticket.) :)
Posted by HypnoKitten at 7:51 PM

Blogger Julie, RN, at 10:29 PM  

Wonderful ending to something that is frightening, but possible. You, know if it had of happened. Which it didn't.

Anonymous Sean, at 6:23 AM  

Hearing mental health nursing stories makes me miss it! I'm wondering if I really need to persue that once I'm finished school.

Blogger kate loving shenk, at 9:48 AM  

here's to curt--stepping his way to freedom, if only for a few glorious minutes, sipping his free expresso!!!!!

peace (of mind)
kate loving shenk

Blogger HypnoKitten, at 11:58 AM  

Julie: I'm glad it ended well. I wish we could somehow convince people to not use those doors...

Sean: Working in Acute Psych is definately a challenge. I think some of what keeps me here is that sometimes I feel like I am really affecting patients' quality of life - giving them another chance to re-enter society or get off drugs for good or whatever the case may be. I will not stay for years and years, though - I can see burnt-out nurses here that I don't want to become.

Kate: Curt did get a moment of freedom, but in an acute-care crisis type of psych facility unfortunately many of our patients are actively suicidal or homicidal. If he had been a more violent, paranoid patient, he may have broken into someone's home and hurt people or hurt himself. It's a very serious situation when the County admits someone involuntarily. Curt was admitted for (among other reasons) assaulting a random person in a public facility. Psych Doc said it best, and I agree fully, that allowing a patient to elope this easily makes us look completely incompetent. It is a pretty funny story, though. :) What other area of the world is there where you're busy escaping but stop for coffee when offered?

Blogger PaedsRN, at 5:46 PM  

I love it! You should put the coffee guy on the payroll.

Blogger unsinkablemb, at 9:42 PM  

Nice story. By the way, I love the updated look of your blog. I think I've been away too long!!! :P

Blogger Lindy, at 12:30 PM  

Having just finished my "mental Health" rotation, I loved this story. God Bless the folks who work that floor all of the time, I just don't think I could take it.

Blogger nurse mama, at 9:41 AM  

Wow, great story. That was some clever thinking on the part of the coffeshop owner.

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