Nursing Notes

April 29, 2011

Confessions of a Psych Nurse

Here is an article I found on NurseTogether that absolutely blew me away.  As a psych nurse for over 20 years, I can empathize and sympathize with this author.  She speaks my thoughts.  It is amazing.  I immediately emailed her for permission to repost this article here for you to read and enjoy.  Won’t you let me know how you feel about the things she has to say?  Please click over to her website and read some of her other posts and maybe leave her a comment while you are there.

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A Nurse Confesses:  There is no way to work on a psych ward of a mental hospital and not learn something about life; I have met some of the strangest and most original individuals.  When people find out where I work, and have worked for almost 22 years, their mouths hangs open in awe.  Most of the time the phrase, “I don’t know how you do it” is mentioned, as they shake their heads.

 I confess there are things about working in a mental health institution that I do not like, and there are times when I have to bite my tongue and keep my lips glued together because I become so agitated.  I thought I would list for you my dislikes and explain later what I have learned.  Deep breath…here I go.

 I dislike when someone comes into the hospital just so they can get a check (aka crazy check) when they are clearly healthy but truly too damn lazy to work.

 I dislike when someone is purely and simply mean spirited and uses their diagnosis of being mentally ill as an excuse to cling to.

 I dislike when prisoners come in and break furniture, hurt the staff, share their rude and unintelligent slurs to the staff and demean them, because they have nothing to lose and will be going back to jail.

 I dislike an addicted individual who tries to use their mental illness to be prescribed Benzo to feed their habit, and then becomes demanding when they are told no.

 I dislike restraining someone in the bed.  It makes my heart hurt to see someone, or have to place someone, in that situation.  Even though I know at the time it has to be done – everything else has been exhausted – sometimes it is necessary to protect the staff and the patient. 

 I truly dislike calling a doctor who blows off the fact that the nursing staff have already tried many measures before calling him in the middle of the night for more help, and he refuses it because he doesn’t think it is needed.  I also dislike that he feels he shouldn’t have to come to the unit to observe what is going on, leaving the staff in harm’s way.

 I dislike a doctor who comes to the unit during a high risk situation and hides behind the female staff for protection.  I am not a shield; I am a nurse with a family, just like he has.

 I dislike staff who forget how blessed they are and that they have a home to go home to, when a patient is crying because they are homesick and cannot return to their home.

 I dislike not being able to help a patient understand what he/she is seeing – climbing the walls is part of their illness and not real – but they can clearly can see something there.

 I dislike looking into someone’s eyes and seeing pain, hurt, and loneliness – lost souls that I cannot help.  I really dislike that feeling.

 When a new patient comes onto the unit, I like to learn about who they are, not who the chart says they are.  I want to know where they used to work, where they went to school, how many brothers and sisters they have, and whether they are married and/or have children.  I have found that when I approach a patient as a person, rather than as a patient, they open up and let down the walls that they come in with.  I get to peep inside of their lives for just a moment.  I dislike when staff forget that the people we serve had a life before they arrived on our unit.  They attended school, had some kind of home, they have a mother, father, wife, husband, and/or children.  We have all made some really crappy choices in life – we may not have landed in jail or in a mental hospital, but there were choices made along our path.

 I confess – my psych patients have taught me a lot about life.  I have not always liked working in chaos and in hazardous and dangerous situations, but I have always liked talking to the ones I meet.  They have showed me that we are all one step away from the admission office when life hands us more than we can bear.  They have taught me that just because I cannot see delusions and hallucinations doesn’t mean they are not real.  They have taught me the feelings of real compassion for another human when they cannot help themselves.  They have taught me that being with family is not always the safest place to be.  At times, families hurt family members deeper than a stranger does.

I confess – my life has been changed by a mentally insane person.  Just think…yours could be too.

About the Author: For the first 5 years online, Angela Brooks spent her time in network marketing e-commerce with health products. In the last year, she has followed her passion where she has worked for over 21 years in the same state funded psychiatric hospital, working in a dangerous acute psychiatric ward.

Angela also runs her own company on the side and supports other nurses in how to bring passion into their role at work. Visit www.AngelaBrook.com.

Click here for more information on Angela Brooks.

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2 Comments »

  1. That’s very touching. What you have learned, not everyone can open themselves up to. I recently decided this is the line of work I want to go in, and what you’ve shared is inspiring. Thank you.

    Comment by Nate — November 3, 2011 @ 10:12 am | Reply

    • I am so glad you enjoyed the post – and I wish you thick skin and many blessings on your journey

      Comment by Angela Brooks — November 23, 2013 @ 9:06 pm | Reply


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