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3 min read

Case Win Code Black: Nursing Union stands side by side with Nurses.

A PACU Nurses Code Black Experience

A nurse's journey is often characterised by heartwarming moments of care and compassion, but it's also intertwined with the harsh realities of treating patients while they are at their most vulnerable. This is a story of one nurse's experience in the PACU (Post-anesthesia care unit), where a single event would underscore the importance of having a strong advocate in their corner – the Nurses Professional Association of Queensland (NPAQ)

It was just another day for our dedicated nurse working diligently in the PACU. They were focused on providing the best possible care for their patient recovering from anesthesia, ensuring their transition was smooth and safe. However, the unit was soon thrown into chaos when an adjacent patient, overwhelmed by agitation, started hurling objects in a fit of rage.

Our nurse's instincts kicked in as they swiftly took action to protect their patient and maintain a sense of order. They weren't alone in their efforts; the nurse manager joined them, issuing firm requests for the agitated patient to cease their disruptive behaviour. What initially seemed like a situation that could be managed soon escalated into a "code black" – a crisis event in a healthcare setting. The agitated patient, consumed by their emotions, lashed out and assaulted the very patient the nurse was attending to. More hospital staff intervened, successfully restraining the aggressor and restoring calm to the situation.

In the aftermath of the code black, a revelation emerged that sent shock-waves through the healthcare team: the aggressor had been on bail and this was their first outing since the release. This revelation left the staff blindsided, as they had believed the patient to be a routine elective admission.

Faced with the fallout of this traumatic incident, our nurse member felt an urgent need for support that extended beyond the hospital's response. The hospital's reaction had been lacklustre and inadequate, so they decided to reach out to their Nurses Union, the Nurses Professional Association of Queensland (NPAQ) for help.

NPAQ promptly assigned a dedicated & experienced case manager to the nurse's situation. This case manager took the time to listen to the nurse's account of the event, their emotional turmoil, and their concerns about the hospital's response. It was a reassuring reminder that nurses' voices mattered, and their experiences were taken seriously by the union. With the case manager's support, the nurse would navigate the path ahead with renewed strength.

With NPAQ by their side, the nurse's path to resolution took shape. The case manager not only provided emotional support, but also took concrete steps to address the hospital's inadequate response. A comprehensive written response was drafted and presented to the Director of Nursing (DON), highlighting the lax response to the code black incident and the absence of a proper debriefing process. The union also advocated for the nurse's time spent making a police report outside office hours, requesting the return of their time taken.

In response to these efforts, the hospital agreed to provide the nurse with 3 hours of Time Off in Lieu (TOIL), acknowledging the additional time they had dedicated to addressing the situation. The case manager's involvement also paved the way for crucial changes within the hospital and our member’s ideas for a more efficient and timely hot debriefing process were embraced. This experience in the PACU underscores the necessity of having a supportive advocate who stands alongside nurses during their most challenging times.

How is the NPAQ so effective in defending members during workplace issues and disputes? Our experienced and professional case managers use our unique RED™ case resolution system.

Why is the NPAQ different? We believe that real change in healthcare STARTS with empowering frontline nurses, not bureaucrats. 

If you are a member of NPAQ and need assistance with an bullying or a return to work please submit an Member Support Form on your dashboard, or contact us on on 1300 263 374 - hotline@npaq.com.au

To find out more about NPAQ and become protected today visit: npaq.redunion.com.au/signup

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