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Nurse Considers Reporting Coworker Who Had A 'Psychotic Break' At Work To HR For Endangering Patients

A nurse on Reddit admitted to being scared to work with someone who was highly erratic—which is detrimental in an environment where teamwork is crucial.

Redditor "SpiritScareMeAway" is a healthcare worker who one day noticed their coworker was off her medication and suffered what they described as a "psychotic break."


Fearing for their own safety and that of patients, the Original Poster (OP) informed their boss of the "hostile" coworker.

The complaint to the supervisor led nowhere.

The OP sought the input of the Am I the A**hole subReddit to ask "Would I Be The A**hole" (WIBTA) for reporting the coworker to HR.

"I am not super familiar with serious mental illnesses so I'm sorry if my terms aren't correct or even close."
"I work in healthcare. My work directly affects patients and can be life or death."
"I have a newer coworker, we'll call her SP, who has always been a little bit odd. She doesn't really like to help other coworkers which is problematic because we are dependent on each other when we're busy."

There was no other option than to get things done without assistance.

"It annoys me but I've gotten used to just trying to not rely on someone else always being there to help me when it's needed. She gets flustered very easily and has pretty severe ADHD along with some other things which I do not know because it's not my business."
"For the most part, her mental health issues have been controlled by her meds. But last week, SP came into work off of her meds."

This coworker was becoming a major liability.

"On top of being short staffed and overworked, my coworkers and I spent most of the day trying to figure out what she was doing and trying to fix her mistakes before they became bigger issues."
"It really seemed like she was in the midst of a bipolar manic phase or a psychotic break. She wouldn't stop talking to herself, wouldn't eat or drink anything, and was very hostile to anyone that attempted to talk to her."
"I was worried for patient safety, and I was worried for myself and my coworkers. I was scared of SP."
"She was extremely erratic, unpredictable, incoherent, and doing things that didn't make sense. At one point, I stopped asking her why her work wasn't getting done and just started doing her work for her without saying anything."

But things reached a boiling point.

"Sometime after that, she lost her temper screaming that she absolutely despised me and stormed off rambling incoherent words when she was told to take a break and calm down."
"I brought up SP's mental state multiple times to my immediate boss, who was also witnessing SP's actions. It took most of the day and a pretty nasty yelling match with my boss for him to see that SP was not okay and needed to be sent home."
"My coworkers and I were very shaken up and were still very worried to be working with SP later in the week. My immediate boss was not talked to by his boss despite knowing the full situation and how poorly it was handled."

Walking around on eggshells is no way to work in an environment where staff members deal with life or death situations.

"SP is still very hostile towards me this week and I'm worried that something like this will happen again in the future."
"WIBTA if I reported my coworker to HR since my boss is just brushing a serious matter under the rug?"

Like the OP said, they were not familiar with issues dealing with mental illness.

It was time for Reddit to weigh in and decide:

  • NTA - Not The A**hole
  • YTA - You're The A**hole
  • ESH - Everyone Sucks Here
  • NAH - No A**holes Here

This Redditor suggested the OP avoid making a diagnosis when reporting to HR.

"NTA but leave your diagnosis out of the complaint since you are not qualified to make one. Only reference her behavior, stick to the facts." – shillyshally
"Make sure your report is fair. So instead of saying her behaviour was odd or erratic. That's subjective of your opinion."
"Explain in examples of how it was erratic or odd."
"Also, unless you're medical professional that can state a diagnosis. Never put in what you think their history is with mental illness or give a diagnosis. It's unprofessional." – BlackCatsAreLucky03

When filing a complaint, terms like "ADHD" and "bipolar" were strongly considered language to avoid.

"Also the mention of her having severe ADHD isn't something you should bring up, you don't know what HR knows and it's not right to tell people about someone else's diagnosed mental problems especially when those have nothing to do with what happened."
"I have bad ADD, I didn't have to tell my work anything about what I was on or why, only the clinic that I took my drug test at."
mymomcallsmefuckup
"Don't use a diagnosis type term like bipolar. It is fine however to describe behavior as erratic."
"Odd is fine too if a description follows. This is not about OP judging or diagnosing. It IS about laying out all the details clearly and concisely so that the employee's supervisors can make informed, intelligent decisions."
"This person needs help and those around this person may need to be protected."
"It is OP's right and responsibility to describe the alarming and even simply ineffective and disruptive behavior in as detailed manner as possible for a positive resolution that is fair and best for all involved." – cranberry58

This person who worked at a treatment center implied that substance abuse and misdiagnosis could be a factor here.

"NTA but I agree with not trying to diagnose. Obviously you don't have a lot of training dealing with mental health issues and I say that without judgement towards you."
"I just think it's problematic that mental health is not addressed more for all health care workers. People with mental illness get sick just as much as people who are not mentally ill."
"Honestly, I'd suspect drug use as a possible cause but I would never assume that. However, I worked with chemically dependant people in treatment centers for years and the number of clients I had who were doctors and nurses was much higher than I expected."
"One day of being off of medicine for bipolar may make most people jittery or irritable but it's not common."
"Long story short all you know is what you have witnessed. You don't know the whole story. Keeping yourself and your coworker and patients safe is smart and kind."
"She obviously needs some help of some sort and you deserve a safe work environment. You've taken the appropriate action and nothing was done, at least not to your knowledge, and protection for yourself, co-workers, and patients is important."
"Going up the chain of command is warranted in this situation and definitely does not make you TA. Also, be cautious about people saying someone is bipolar."
"They may be and there is no shame in that, but many people suffer from trauma but are treated for bipolar and that causes very odd behavior as well, because those drugs cause more problems than help if you are misdiagnosed."
"You may be doing her a favor even if she is not able to appreciate it right now. I hope things work out well for you all." – LMR0509

The importance of exercising diplomacy was echoed by this Redditor.

"Yes be VERY careful and don't even mention the words 'psychotic break.'"
"No one is well versed on what that is outside of sh**ty internet research. Just stick with what exactly happened."
"If you mention psychotic break, psychosis, mental breakdown, nervous breakdown, etc (or even good old fashioned 'crazy') you will 100% be considered dramatically overreacting even though you are not."
"People use those terms rather loosely to describe anyone doing anything odd these days (ie your boyfriends 'crazy ex.' No. Chances are the ex is not crazy), so they are more often received as dramatics than an actual very serious report."
"Good luck and be careful! She sounds like she is very unwell." – DoreyCat

Someone who does work in HR advised the OP to stick to observation when reporting.

"HR person here - can confirm that what you need to report is what you observed (and that includes errors you caught/corrected, and the potential impacts that could have had on patients) and not get into what you think may have caused what you observed."
"You can also report any attempts you made to address the problems and what the response was."
"NTA, and good luck." – griseldabean

This is a delicate situation that needs to be addressed with care.

Hopefully, the OP will return to workable conditions and the unpredictable coworker receives the help she needs.

The book Resolving Conflicts at Work: Ten Strategies for Everyone on the Job is available here.