Guest Post: Psych Ward Woes, Edition I

September 8, 2007 at 12:19 am 8 comments

I am the proud nurse in an acute unit psych hospital.  I like my job.  It’s hard to get bored when people all about you at any given moment could be screaming, threatening, throwing things, hallucinating, and the like.  I’ve heard curse words I didn’t know existed; I’ve become sadly familiar with the slang for every drug out there; I’ve been grabbed, kicked, spit at; and I’ve become acutely aware of how devastating behavioral health disorders can be.  I’ve sat with tearful patients suffering from such severe depression they are suicidal.  I’ve sat with parents in despair over their children’s illnesses and adult children watching their parents slip into dementia.  I’ve sat with tearful grown men, detoxing and losing all pride.  I’ve read newspaper accounts of former patients succumbing to mental disease and doing horrible things.  I’ve seen people I know, and I suffer for them, and I can’t go share any of it with my husband, ever.  I’ve told him I feel like a Bishop, only in hearing all the heartache, and having to hold it in.  My shifts are sometimes crazy (aware of the pun), sometimes poignant, and ever busy.  As I tell my husband, nurses learn to work a full day without eating, drinking, or peeing. Sometimes it’s funny (not the illness, but the situation), sometimes so serious.  Sometimes you have to laugh, because if you don’t, you’ll burn out and quit.  It really fuses us staff together as a team.  Of course, I like it better when patients are calm, cooperative, processing issues. There’s a definite sense of purpose in helping those who have fallen on hard times and whose illnesses are every bit as real as cancer, and can be every bit as deadly.  It’s nice when you have patients you feel like you can help instead of just manage. This column is not meant to mock my field or those we serve. I respect both. I love both. This column is meant to have a little fun with those moments that need to be laughed at.  I will not discuss my name, city, or hospital, and I will never give particulars that could jeapordize confidentiality.  So here goes, Edition 1:

I guess my job is crazy (still aware) often enough, that I really enjoy it when it is boring. A recent shift proved anything but boring…. I was out in the day room when I saw a man out in the courtyard running full speed for the wall. I watched for a second, until a coworker jarred me out of spectatorship.  I unlocked the door, ran out in the courtyard, only to find that a patient on another unit had eloped, jumping over a very high wall. Some male coworkers unlocked the courtyard door and ran, following the most obvious path the patient could have taken. 

I, feeling like Sidney Bristow from Alias, quickly eyed a path, less obvious, that could have been taken.  I gallantly ran (in very uncomfortable shoes) a short ways down that path, past a window on my unit.  I didn’t get very far before I determined that I had no desire to overtake said patient… alone… in a wooded area… So I stopped, realizing I’d rather let him elope successfully, and turned around. 

I walked past the same window, ran toward a public area, and another coworker yelled out to the people if they’d seen an escape patient running. Ouch, I thought, for PR as I watched eyes bulge. I directed the police toward the area, but their job proved a breeze, since the original two male staff had already overtaken the patient on their original course.  

By now, limping with blistered feet, I defeatedly stepped onto my home unit.  Any lingering feeling of being Sidney Bristow vanished when a couple of coworkers laughed, mentioning they had witnessed my spring of action into the woods, my abrupt halt, and my hasty return.  Sidney’s missions were sexy. 

Nothing sexy about being a psych nurse.


Entry filed under: Work.

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. lemare  |  September 8, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    Sydney Bristow would have overtaken the mental patient alone in the wooded area…

  • 2. JL  |  September 8, 2007 at 4:19 pm

    Psych Nurse, good decision to abruptly halt your mission. Because of your good judgment, you’re here to bring us a riveting future Edition!

  • 3. PsychRN  |  September 8, 2007 at 8:44 pm

    Sidney Bristow also didn’t seem to mind torture every few episodes, like getting teeth pulled. I’d rather retreat.

  • 4. Lowdogg  |  September 8, 2007 at 11:01 pm

    It’s too bad she wasn’t wearing Crocs!


  • 5. lemare  |  September 10, 2007 at 11:34 am

    by the way, when i first read this story, i was thinking that “Eloping” was referring to getting married. I’m a moron.

  • 6. Jen Cardall Jacobson  |  September 10, 2007 at 10:30 pm

    I’m still thinking eloping is getting married. Can you divulge the alternate meaning?

  • 7. lemare  |  September 10, 2007 at 10:36 pm

    See Third definition:

    Pronunciation Key – Show Spelled Pronunciation[i-lohp] Pronunciation Key – Show IPA Pronunciation
    –verb (used without object), e·loped, e·lop·ing.
    1. to run off secretly to be married, usually without the consent or knowledge of one’s parents.
    2. to run away with a lover.
    3. to leave without permission or notification; escape.

  • 8. PsychRN  |  September 11, 2007 at 4:11 pm

    Escape would be the one!


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