The Role of a Psych Nurse

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    My first psych nurse interview was an amazing experience. It was at Four Winds Hospital Westchester where the mass majority are therapeutic patients but 90% are suicidal. Only once in a while they get a higher level psych patient.

    It made me question the role of a nurse who works with psych patients. While a psych does use diffusion skills, medication administration, conflict resolution and such....but in a place where a nurse's words are his/her most powerful tools, how do you know the right things to say? The right moments to listen?

    As a new grad nurse (my psych rotation was terrible), I am baffled on how to begin growing as a psych nurse. How does one treat patients? Act like they have no problem until they speak of it?

    Seeing the young adult women only dorm house, they are similar ages as me but what could have possibly led them to terminate their life? What could have possibly led young children to try committing suicide (I'm sure bullying is a factor). Can I really comprehend and support these children, adolescents, and adults? How can I even begin to help them?


    The experience just really led me to question myself and ask questions. I'm asking the community to help me since I have no one to ask these questions.
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  3. 2 Comments so far...

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    I spent my first year as a new grad on a similar unit. I think that as you are acclimating to a psych environment, it never hurts to err on the side of listening more than talking. Once you are more experienced, you may find that you speak more, but not by much.

    I tend to let pts bring up the reason they came in, though if I am doing an assessment, I will come right out and ask what brought them to the hospital. I treat pts kindly. Suicidal pts generally believe that they are worthless. When you demonstrate that you believe they are worth caring for, the results can be very surprising. I had one pt who had been quite nasty begin to sob when he found out that I had not only called the doctor about what he had been demanding, but had made sure to cover all his medical and chronic pain issues.

    You do not have to comprehend the depth of a pt's misery to support them. Some of them come from such dysfunctional backgrounds that modeling positive coping skills and accountability is like teaching them another language. It's also okay to let them know that you can only imagine how tough their situation is. Generally, that attitude is more appreciated than someone who thinks they fully comprehend and have all the answers.

    You ask good questions. You will have coworkers to observe and learn from. You don't have to figure it out alone. Check out the Psych Specialty forum to read lots more about this pt population.
    pamnock likes this.
  5. 2
    Soooo I'm a little bit tipsy, so this may not be terribly on topic, but I will say this --)

    as a former psych patient multiple times over, both as an adolescent and young adult, I will say that I truly get all tingly inside just by reading posts such as yours, OP. Nurses who actually seem to care about interacting with patients and establishing some sort of therapeutic relationship/milieu.

    I have maybe thirty inpatient hospitalizations spread over five hospitals and three states. I flew under the radar for the most part -- never got much staff attention in general because I didn't act out, get violent, etc. So that may have had something to do with my experiences.

    But I do have memories of exactly *two* nurses from all of my stays, months of inpatient. I remember them clearly and fondly and can affirm with certainty that they helped shape the person that I am now. However, the rest of the nurses are just a blur. They literally just passed meds and, now that I'm also a nurse and know, also did a mountain of charting and care plans. When I wasn't on meds, I could go days without physically interacting with a single nurse. So it makes me happy to hear about nurses who worry or want to know about how to interact with their patients because this is so...against what I experienced as a patient, in general.
    Whispera and VivaLasViejas like this.


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