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'I'm a Nurse; I Can't Let You Do This'

The truest thing Lauren Brennan says anyone ever told her in nursing school was, “Pay attention during psych, because it will follow you in whatever department you decide to work in.”

Brennan, a urology nurse practitioner who joined UConn Health three years ago, never worked in psychiatry. But acting on that advice – and on the instincts of a person who chose nursing as a profession – very likely saved a life the morning of Aug. 27.

Brennan was reporting to the GI procedures center for an 8 a.m. case. On her walk from her car to the building, she noticed a man who appeared to be distressed standing near the edge of an elevated wall. She asked if he needed help.

“He said, ‘I need your help to get up here, I need to jump,’” Brennan says.

It would have been a roughly three-story drop.

“I dropped my bag and went over, and he kept trying to climb up, so I tried to engage him in conversation, which he wasn’t terribly interested in having. I just kept talking to him, and held his hand at one point. I was trying anything to distract him,” Brennan says. “I said, ‘You know I’m a nurse, I have to help people, I can’t let you do this.’”

By then she had called 911. There was no one else around. It was a matter of stalling him until help could arrive.

“There was an electrical box over in the corner that he noticed, and was trying to get his foot up on to help him climb,” Brennan says. “And then I realized, if he came any closer to climbing over, I was going to have to pull him down, and potentially hurt him and/or myself. But the police arrived right then and swooped in and pulled him out of harm’s way.”

She left her information with the police and reported to work.

“Lauren exemplified extreme compassion and bravery while remaining focused on the situation and activating additional resources,” says Linda Mladek, assistant nurse manager in the endoscopy unit. “Here in the procedure center, we are all proud to have her as our colleague.”

Brennan was offered workplace resources including the Employee Assistance Program and the chaplain, but she says all she needed was a few minutes to collect herself. Moments later, it was on with the scheduled procedure.

“I’m glad I was in the right place at the right time and able to help,” Brennan says. “I also greatly appreciate Linda’s kindness and helping me to debrief at the time, and her genuine concern for my wellbeing. I’m so fortunate to work with a great team at UConn!”

She says it was a surreal experience, almost as if she was in a movie.

“I felt at times he didn’t want my help, and that was the most upsetting thing about it,” Brennan says. “I hope he gets whatever services and help he needs.”

This story originally appeared on UConn Today.

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