I went into mental health directly out of nursing school, and I found myself in a charge position on an adult/CD unit. My unit was new. I literally opened it, taking in the first admission we ever received. The attitude around the hospital evolved as the unit was open for a while. At first, ancillary personnel were afraid to come on the unit because they might be attacked. Then, the perception was that we weren't "real" nurses. One comment from an ICU nurse on the elevator was that "you don't even wear uniforms." I said "I suppose I will have to tell the DON that she isn't a real nurse either." That pretty much ended that conversation.
Because of this attitude around the hospital, some staff began to get discouraged. I told them that we save lives all the time, we just don't always know it. While we don't get the immediate feedback you sometimes get from a life-saving medical procedure, something that we say or do can make a world of difference to a struggling patient who is having trouble coping or finding answers. It may make the patient think before acting in a self-destructive way. I also told the staff that in psychiatry you have to give of yourself. You can't hide behind medical procedures and never have a meaningful interaction with your patients. You put yourself on the line every day.
The turning point for us in terms of respect came out of the blue. I heard the code for a psychiatric emergency paged overhead, but the location was our telemetry unit. The charge nurse from our companion gero-psych unit and I responded to the call. We arrived on the floor to find the charge nurse from the tele unit in a virtual fist fight with a patient who looked to be 75-80 years of age. I said to the gero CN, "We had better take this over." We approached the woman and talked to her to find out what the problem was. She had fallen asleep, and when she awakened she was convinced that someone had taken her to another hospital. Through conversation and demonstration we managed to show her that she was in fact exactly where she was when she fell asleep. She got into her bed and went to sleep. The staff on the floor were amazed. The exit conversation went something like this:
Staff: Where is the patient?
Us: She's in her bed.
Staff: What kind of restraints did you use?
Us: She doesn't have any.
Staff: What did you give her?
Us: There was no need for chemical restraint. She just needed an explanation and a little of our time.
From that point on, units began calling on us when they had issues with patient behavior, restraints and psychiatric medications. All the comments about us not being "real" nurses stopped. We finally became a full-fledged, respected part of the hospital.
Best of luck to you in your new specialty. You seem to have the right makeup to be successful at it.
Last edit by Orca on Apr 23, '10