Neither Crime Nor Demeanor

By Marcy Phipps. Marcy is an RN in St. Petersburg, Florida. Her essay, “The Soul on the Head of a Pin,” appeared in the May issue of AJN, and she has contributed several thoughtful posts to this blog in recent months (here’s the previous one).

by Van Der Elst/via Flickr

My patient’s ICU stay was short, as his injuries were fairly unremarkable. Far more striking were the circumstances of his admission; he’d been injured while committing an appalling act of grisly violence. An armed police officer stood sentry at his bedside, and the nature of his crimes gave him a sinister notoriety among the medical staff.

“Alleged” crimes, I should say.

But it was difficult to give him the benefit of the doubt. I’d read the paper and seen the crime scene photos on the news.  The media’s case against him made his innocence hard to fathom, and as a police officer’s daughter I found myself inclined to prejudice. I not only planned on, but also counted on disliking him, at least on some level. Although I would certainly provide care to this man, I exempted myself from caring about him as an individual.

I was surprised to find his demeanor dramatically different than my expectations. He was soft-spoken and retiring, exceedingly polite and appreciative.

I don’t mean to imply that we chatted. Our conversations were limited to his physical condition and general plan of care. He never acknowledged the officer at the bedside or spoke of his alleged crimes, and neither did I.

It’s possible that I was being charmed by a deviant mind. But at the end of the day I not only didn’t dislike him, I was left with a sincere hope that he finds peace, regardless of his past, his actions, or whatever his personal demons may be. The sympathies I developed for him unsettled me, given my initial repulsion, and I’m humbled by the reminder that in the wishing of peace for another, neither their crimes nor demeanor should matter.

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2016-11-21T13:15:59+00:00 August 25th, 2010|Nursing, nursing stories|3 Comments
Chief flight nurse at Global Jetcare.


  1. Cartoon August 29, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    I worked in a medium security prison with pedophiles and sex offenders – one of which murdered an RN. I found the same thing….taking each patient as a person without the judgement of where they are at.

  2. myhypotheticaldivorce August 25, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    great, great point.

    you aren’t the judge, jury or jailer. you are the caretaker.

    i’m just sorry that i didn’t receive the same treatment.

  3. […] Battlefield Humor Backfires. Follow it with today’s post by registered nurse Marcy Phipps for AJN’s blog Off the Charts, and you’ll have lots to think […]

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