Monday, 22 June 2009

Attacks on Veterinary Staff

Having a peruse of a veterinary nursing site l go on l was shocked to read about a student veterinary nurse, getting assaulted at work. I do not know what practice or where in the UK it is only that it is apparently a small branch surgery. That narrows it down to a few thousand places then.

A client who has mental health issues flung her into a door as a result she is on pain medication, very sore and scared and her state of mind is so demoralised she will be heading for depression and has no work support at all.
It is one thing to get assaulted at work, quite another when your boss not only doesn’t stick up for you but starts to make noises that they feel she may need to leave if she doesn’t feel safe working at that particular branch she obviously “isn’t up to the job”, she has a day or so to decide if she will “behave” and “feel safe”.

Her co-worker is furious that she is pressing charges as the woman is mentally disturbed and should be cut some slack, obviously the woman should be allowed to bash people around.
Apparently the client has a history of verbal abuse and “behaving strangely” but no one had put any warnings on her record and they sent the new student VN (been there a few days) out to deal with her and did not warn her verbally about possible danger despite the other staff knowing the client.

The customer has been back in to threaten the student VN and the student’s co-worker sent the student out the back and spoke to the woman. She assured the woman all charges would be dropped. I understand the student when informed afterwards said no way.

The student is scared, emotionally wrecked and physically painful but determined to make a go of it. Training places are like hens teeth they have her over a barrel, if she leaves it will probably be a long time before she can get into another training practice in her area. Added to that in this age of job losses she can not guarantee getting any job anywhere.

On the thread of sympathy to the student and anger and outrage towards whoever her practice manager/owner is that to the student’s knowledge nothing had gone into the accident book or been reported to RIDDOR. As you can guess both of those were high priorities for her to help cover her back. It turns out that until she asked for it to go into the accident book thanks to many site members advising her there was no accident book.

There are not many physical assaults on veterinary staff but there is a lot of verbal abuse towards us. Us being veterinary nurses, receptionists, students etc. Not so much verbal abuse to vets.
The attitude from the management in the post above regarding staff security is not untypical in the veterinary world though where all too often staff are seen as expendable and not worth protecting.


Hogday said...

"Mental health issues" is often a way (bullshit excuse) of describing criminal thugs who can't control their temper. The Vets may well know this and be scared of her and her family which could be the real reason behind their appalling attitude to their staff. I would say, prosecute this thug and let her bring her mental issues defence to court and regardless of any procedures tell her that she is no longer welcome at the surgery and to take her problems elsewhere. Refer the victim to the local branch of `Victim Support` (service is free and a crime does not have to have been reported to police in order to receive it). This dog mustn't wag other peoples tails.

Vetnurse said...

Thanks Hogday l will pass on the bit about scared of the family. The present "betting" is that they are scared the student may sue so are trying to intimidate her.

It seems that the practice won't tell the attacker to take a walk. They are getting the student to walk. I recon she will be gone in a short time they will get rid of her.
As she has only been there 4 days when this happened she has so she is informed no leg to stand.

There is a lot of legal advice been posted some from a pretty hot practice manager and a lot from people who have read up on parts of the law when they needed it regarding H & S and basic rules.
Like the law to have accident book hence the practice making one when she asked for it to go in. And duty of care etc.

Several folks have said to contact victim support. But l am not sure if anyone knew that a crime did not have to have been reported that may well come in useful for a few other people who have been in bad situations, l will pass that along many thanks.

All the rest you have said pretty much sums up the 6 pages of replies (and still coming in) to her.

JuliaM said...

"The present "betting" is that they are scared the student may sue so are trying to intimidate her."

Given that they've broken enough workplace H&S guidelines to get a personal-injury lawyer salivating like a dogue de bourdeaux, they should be!

Hogday said...

As an ex `union` rep I'd be advising her to see her GP and to go sick with immediate effect - shock, bruising, etc, minimum of 3 weeks.

Hogday said...

Different offence, but the same in principle

Dave the Dog said...

Agree with everything said by all, especially Hogday. Not just the accident (incident) Book, but get it recorded by her own GP and go off sick. That will give the Vet and other staff time to consider their failings. If there was no accident book I'll bet there are no Risk Assessments or written procedures on file. Whilst I hate the compensation and blame culture this is not part of it and the Vet and his staff need to sort themselves out.
If she does get the push then a detailed letter to the RCVS should also be on the cards.

Roses said...

I know it's not much help...but I am shocked and appalled. The practise should be named and shamed!

Vetnurse said...

She now has a "meeting" set up. Initally back up for her was refused but she insisted so has been told she can have a union rep or co-worker.
Well the co-worker hates her and we have no unions (sorry Hogday l don't mind l am a non union person only had bad exp. with unions) But we do have a legal dept for our vn association so l have told her to get one of the legal people there as they count as nurses union. Shall see what the outcome is.

In the meantime the practice owner has told the woman she is always welcome at the practice..

Fi from Four Paws and Whiskers said...

It is one huge area of concern for trainng nurses... and in New Zealand, they are not employees, as they are there for experience only, but it is expected that in regards to H & S they will be treated the same way - accident registers, support etc.
Sadly, clinics do vary! Fear of being sued is a real issues - but they should have treated this girl with more compassion and support.

This also reminds me that training providers here are expected to have open entry to their lower level animal care courses - which can be pre entry to vet nursing. In our experience, some applicants are mentally ill, have anger control issues, and we are then supposed to send them into the workplaces for experience! To me we are potentially setting the animal facilities and vet clinics up for similar issues to this.... which is the main reason I fight hard to maintain application forms we can use to check references etc...

Vetnurse said...

As you say in UK students are employed by the vet and then sent to the training provider usually when the student has been at the vets for about a year to ensure they like it, are up to the job and do not waste the vets money.

There is now the degree route where students get a vn degree and go to a practice that the student arranges for the experience side at certain times for a few weeks at a time. This sounds a bit more like things over in NZ.

It is more controversial as those coming out are fine with the theory but are never up to the standard of the in house type vn, although they do train up it takes time.