Chuck Meyers: Nursing & Self Defense
Charles (Chuck) Meyers works as an ICU staff nurse at UCSD in sunny San Diego. He isn’t a Trusted Nurse (yet!), but we met him at a Trusted meet-up not too long ago. He has a unique point of view that he brings to both the nursing and martial arts communities.
Chuck’s goal is simple (in theory) - applying the learnings of martial arts to nursing, and those of nursing to martial arts. To find out why and how, you’ll have to read the thoughts Chuck shared with us!
When Worlds Collide
What happens when you have a 300lb male patient wake up from heavy sedation...
... angry and ready to start roughhousing people? What happens to the 120lb nurse who is in his immediate vicinity upon waking? It’s so common and so obvious, but we do very little to prepare.
But how do we respond in a way without hurting our patients (staying aware of tubes and other apparatuses attached to our patients) but still protecting ourselves? We must find more ways to prioritize patient safety while also keeping our own staff in mind so that we can improve workplace safety and protect nurses and doctors from potential workplace violence. Ultimately, we need to create a system focused on non-violent self defense, one that isn’t focused on striking or force, but on how we can disentangle ourselves from the patient and get outside help.
How do you restrain someone that’s attacking you? How do you diffuse the situation? How do we create a culture of safety? We need to learn more than “this is how you tie a restraint to a bed,” but rather, how do you do it safely while the patient is working against you. Often times you need 4-5 people to help restrain someone (especially in trauma units and emergency rooms). This isn't even typically mentioned during staff training from the hospitals or institutions.
This is why I created Martial Arts Medicine, with the goal of bringing self defense to hospitals (through defense classes) to improve nurse safety as well as improve safety practices in martial arts gyms. I had my first seminar about 6 months ago, which received great feedback, and I’m excited to keep them going!
There has been a need for something like this for years, and it’s finally getting some publicity (for better or worse). In the unfortunate case that a threat is made against a patient or nurse, there’s not a whole lot we can do proactively unless the threat is proven imminent. However, there shouldn’t be any excuse to be “ok” with open threats. As nurses, we have to be tolerant and very aware, but also prepared. Occasionally, we become the security guards.
In one case such as this, the floor manager put me next to a room that had received threats (knowing of my experience) and had another large, male nurse, also trained in Jiu Jitsu, nearby. Wait a minute... now we’re expected to be the security? In cases like this, we really have an apparent need to protect ourselves. We need training.
There’s also no fallback for nurses who are abused verbally, let alone physically. We deal with it all the time and come right back to it the next day; there is no PTO or recovery time for incidents that happen while we’re just “doing our job.” That’s why we need to start doing more to prepare ourselves to deal with these emergencies ahead of time. Only “high risk” departments in the hospital receive special training for crisis situations, and the only areas in the hospital considered high risk are the Emergency Department, OB/L&D, and psych units.
I believe that all areas in the hospital should receive training.
It only takes a single moment to make a “normal” part of the hospital a high-risk one. We need to make this more apparent and do something about it.
So, the state of nursing today… where does this leave us? We need to take it to a point where we’re focusing on the safety of our nurses and medical staff just as much as that of our patients. The world is crazy; we’re not ready as it stands. From restraints, to active weapons emergencies, to general crises, there’s plenty that needs to be covered in nursing school and continued throughout the nurses career.
In short: more needs to be done by crisis committees and programs in hospitals to reach the entire hospital staff, not just staff in high-risk units or areas.
How I Got My Start in Nursing and Martial Arts
Nursing just came to me; I really fell into it. I went to Purdue University North Central in Indiana to play baseball. I started with pre-nursing and then applied to the nursing program. I got in, so I simply thought, ‘Well, I guess I’m doing it now.’ When I do something, I’m all in; I’m going to get it done no matter what.
I got really serious about nursing after getting into the program. I continued playing baseball until my final year of nursing, but due to clinicals had to drop baseball and double-down on school. At this point, I realized that I truly enjoyed nursing. As soon as I finished my associates degree, I returned to school for my bachelors, making my way through the degree while still working as a nurse as well as the coordinator for residential student life on campus.
Come graduation, I was ready to get out of Indiana, so I took a local travel assignment to Chicago. The staffing ratios in Chicago weren’t great, so I went looking for another opportunity. I didn’t realize how bad I had it there until I started a travel assignment at USC in Los Angeles.
It was a total culture shock having more resources at my disposal as well as better patient-staff ratios. I was so used to grinding it out, shift by shift, but coming to California renewed my love for nursing. When you’re being overworked, it’s easy to become jaded and feel burnt out.
While working at USC, I was living in Hollywood nearby a Krav Maga Worldwide gym. I’d never tried martial arts before but decided to give it a shot. I quickly fell in love with it and thus began my career in self-defense and martial arts.
Not so long after, I moved to Santa Barbara for another travel assignment. I maintained my Krav Maga training but decided that I liked grappling better than stand-up fighting, so I began training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu as well. I worked in Santa Barbara as a travel nurse for a year before moving again, this time to San Francisco.
I lived in Noe Valley and worked at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, mainly in the Surgical/Trauma ICU. I have to say, I really miss the food and some of the city views in SF. While there, I joined a Muay Thai gym that also had a Jiu Jitsu program being led by instructor Renan Silva (Ralph Gracie Black Belt) who now heads Sunset Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This was 2017. From there on out, I trained strictly Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
After about seven months, I moved to San Diego on another travel assignment, eventually finding a staff position at UCSD. When I arrived in San Diego, I just felt at home. So, I committed taking a full-time staff position and found a great Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gym (Clark Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy). I’ve been at USCD for almost two years now and feel so much support working there... the people, the resources, the location- incredible!
The Realization: Connecting Nursing and Martial Arts
I didn’t see a need for further training (self defense, physical and verbal preparedness) throughout my early years of nursing because I hadn’t trained martial arts yet. That said, I was getting attacked by patients that were not in their right mind, (whether due to medication, ICU delirium, or working with patients withdrawing from drugs or alcohol). I was often having to restrain patients that were attempting to hit, bite, or grab me or other nurses.
People can be very aggressive for many reasons, and sometimes it takes more than a restraint or medication to limit the damage.
Earlier in my career, I really thought this was normal. Having to diffuse intense situations and literally put people back into bed was a “normal” occurrence. I have used four-point restraints many times throughout my career in the ICU. The issue that I came to realize was that I was taught how to tie the restraints, but I was never actually shown how it could be difficult to restrain someone who was being aggressive and combative (well, duh).
However, when I started training Krav Maga, I saw the applicability of having more bodily and situational awareness.
When patients would grab me, I could gently, but quickly and effectively, get their grip off me -- or someone else -- without even thinking about it; it became natural.
Once I started training consistently, the need to introduce martial arts to nursing became more clear. This idea actually began with the need for more safety in martial arts studios and gave rise to the question of what the medical world can bring to martial arts. So, I began teaching first aid and CPR to martial arts gyms to ensure that injuries and emergencies are dealt with properly. Simply knowing where local AEDs are and how to do basic CPR until paramedics arrive can save lives!
This was my short-long intro to the idea that I could actually connect these two things (nursing and martial arts). Through nursing experience across multiple states and units, as well as a variety of martial arts and self defense experience, it became ever more clear to me that these two worlds could operate in unison.
So, that’s my goal- to better connect them for the benefit of individuals involved in both areas.