Monday, April 25, 2016

'A great mistake to leave out nurses:' expert

Joanne Laucius, Ottawa Citizen

Dr. John Bradford says it's "madness" to separate nurses from other first responders.
It makes “absolutely no sense” to exclude nurses from Ontario’s new PTSD legislation, says renowned forensic psychiatrist Dr. John Bradford.
Paramedics are covered under the proposed bill, as are police officers, firefighters, workers in correctional institutions and dispatchers.
Bradford, who wrote a letter to the province in support of the Ontario Nurses’ Association, argues that a paramedic who goes to the scene, stabilizes a patient and prepares the patient for transport is under the same kind of stress as the emergency room nurse who receives the patient.
“To split first responders and nurses is madness,” Bradford said this week from his office at the Brockville Mental Health Centre.
In forensic psychiatry, staff always must be aware of the potential for violence — “Code White” is hospital-talk for physical violence against a member of the staff.
There is also the anxiety of protecting the public from patients who have been released into the community. The risk level creates anxiety and stress, said Bradford.
“We manage risk day in, day out. No matter how safe we try to be, we work with difficult and dangerous people. The team I work with knows the risks and odds.”
A female patient stabbed a nurse in the neck with a pen at the Brockville Mental Health Centre in October 2014.
“If that happened to you or me, there’s a good chance we would develop PTSD,” Bradford said.
But he argues that nurses who work in mental health aren’t the only ones who are vulnerable — those who work in general hospitals, especially emergency departments “have many of the same experiences as first responders.”
Bradford has seen both sides of PTSD. In 2013, he went public about seeking treatment for his own PTSD diagnosis.
As a respected forensic psychiatrist, Bradford had sat across from infamous killers including Paul Bernardo and Robert “Willie” Pickton, and reviewed graphic evidence of crimes. But he has described how he broke down after he saw video evidence of Canadian Air Force colonel Russell Williams assaulting two young women, knowing the video would end in their deaths. All the evidence he had seen over the course of his career rushed back at him, and he drove home weeping.
“Everyone we see has done horrible things. We try to compartmentalize that in our minds when we help patients therapeutically. But this kind of compartmentalization can make you very vulnerable to PTSD,” Bradford said.