Mental Health Nurse Tells Of Trauma After Being Bitten By Patient

Why is bite resistant clothing important?

In order for me to explain why we believe bite resistant clothing is of such relevance and importance to the personal safety of mental health care professionals, please allow me to tell you the following story:

It's a Thursday night in a psychiatric unit in Melbourne and Jessica Anderson is being bitten by one of her patients. The woman has latched onto her forearm with her top and bottom teeth and is pulling as hard as she can.

Jessica has left her job as a mental health nurse after developing PTSD after a series of attacks against her by patients. 

But Jessica's is focusing on her colleagues. One of her workmates is sprawled on the floor after being thrown across the room. The other is doubled over in pain after being kicked in the groin. After twelve years as a nurse, Jessica Anderson will probably never work in the sector again. 

Speaking to Australian ’The Age’ newspaper, she describes her ordeal and commented:

"I didn't realize what had happened until the end of my shift when I thought 'Jeez my arm is a bit painful'. I rolled back my sleeve of my jumper to have a look and a bit of skin fell off my arm."

Jessica’s bite injury required stitches and she is now left with a scar on her arm. I truly believe Jess and her colleagues would have done everything in their power to prevent injuries of this type, but bite resistant clothing is the last form of defence if everything else fails. 


Bitten arm injury


Over her twelve-year career as a mental health nurse, Jess says she has been injured, abused and threatened at work too many times to count. She has been punched in the face, spat on and people have told her that they will kill her. She has also been bitten on four separate occasions, and never wore bite resistant arm guards. 

At the age of 34, she is already burnt out and stated that it is sad to say that she has probably seen her last day of nursing. She really loved it, but unfortunately it has taken its toll.

As an organizer with the Health and Community Services Union, she is speaking about her time as a mental health nurse to help the public understand what they go through, and in the hope that employers will offer better support for psychological trauma.

Jessica says she did not have any mental health problems before she began nursing, but was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety in 2011 because of her "accumulated trauma".

There is stigma attached to seeking help for mental health issues while working in the mental health sector. She has taken leave without pay from her job at a Melbourne hospital – and says she only received paid time off for her physical injuries, which quickly healed.

Her message is that support for psychological trauma needs to be improved.

A joint study between the Health and Community Services Union and the University of Melbourne in 2014 found that more than one in three Victorian mental health workers were physically assaulted within a year.

In the past financial year, there were more than 11,600 violent incidents in hospital wards around Victoria – almost 1700 of which resulted in an injury, illness or other condition.

Working within the mental health sector will unquestionably be a safer environment if the appropriate protection is used.

BitePRO® is dedicated to reducing injuries caused by biting, scratching and pinching

BitePRO® is a range of bite resistant clothing and arm guards designed to protect care professionals working with vulnerable children and adults who present challenging behaviour. 


Bite Pro resistant jacket protection thumbnail


Our specialist fabric prevents teeth from breaking the skin, effectively reducing the risks of serious injury and infection associated with human bites.

We have already offered hundreds of professionals in mental health care, special education, and associated services peace of mind to continue providing the best possible support to children and adults in their care. 

"In my field of helping people with disabilities, we often face daily challenges but with the peace of mind that our staff are well protected, we are able to attend to the needs of the clients without having to worry about becoming injured. So far through daily use of Bite Resistant Clothing, my staff have not been injured on their arms while wearing the sleeve guards and are completely satisfied with the high-quality products". Sterling Barbosa, Valley Achievement Center, California, USA

The risk of being bitten by a human is a reality for professionals working in specialist schools for severe learning disabilities, challenging behaviour, special needs or autism – as well as care workers within mental health care facilities and psychiatric hospitals. Bite related injuries can of course become infected and mental health care professionals could subsequently be contaminated with pathogens. Transmissions of potentially life-threatening viruses, such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C or HIV are also a part of reality.

BitePRO® Bite Resistant Clothing can effectively help reduce the risk of such injuries, offering BS EN 388:2003 blade cut resistance level 5 and extremely high puncture resistance to human teeth.

"Bites can cause both physical injury, risk of infection, soft tissue damage and psychological distress to staff. Whilst our staff teams are usually aware of the potential for bites from records of previous incidents and preventative steps are taken, additional measures to protect staff from a bite may be beneficial.” Debbie Townsend, Physical Intervention Training Manager of the Oxfordshire Learning Disability NHS Trust (UK)

Please visit our website for further information: www.bite-pro.com, and contact our team of specialists for advice on the use of bite resistant clothing, and tailored solutions for your specific requirements:

T: +44 (0) 845 5193 953

E: info@bite-pro.com


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