Working with colleagues diagnosed with mental illness

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    I was wondering if anyone had experiences to share of working with colleagues (supervisors, other nurses or supportive staff) with mental illness, diagnosed or suspected, and how it affected the working relationship and/or patient care delivery? Thanks.
    VivaLasViejas and Davey Do like this.

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  2. 21 Comments...

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    Excellent and Interesting Question, resilientnurse. Most of us have some Symptoms of Mental Illlness, from Major Depression to Bipolar. However, a few Symptoms does not meet Diagnostic Criteria. A few Symptoms can even be a Postive Attribute in the Workplace. Take OCD, for example. Adherence to a Routine and a little bit of Perfectionism makes for a Productive Employee.

    Many Co-Workers, past and present, have been Diagnosed with Depression or some kind of Anxiety Disorder. In my 30 years of Nursing, I've worked with only one Nurse who truly had a Diagnosis of a Mental Illness that profoundly affected Logistics of the Workplace.

    I had recently became an RN after working at this Hospital as an LPN for about 6 years. I was working in a Chemical Dependency Treatment Program for about 3 1/2 years when this particular Nurse was hired. A true Team Concept was utilized whereby all Team Members had an equal amount of Power, so to speak, we each had different Reponsibilities. The first problem was this Nurse's inability to relinguish control. This Nurse would identify themself as the "Charge Nurse" whenever we worked together and did not hesitate to refer to me as "Boy".

    I had attempted to explain the Team Concept to this Nurse to no avail. When the Name-Calling began, I confronted the Inappropriate Behavior and was futile in my attempt. I discussed the Situation with my Supervisor, who assurred me the Problem would be rectified. The Behavior continued, so I informed my Supervisor again with a Similar Reponse recieved. When the Behavior continued, I filed a Grievance and a Meeting was scheduled.

    The DON, Supervisor, the other Nurse, and I attended the Grievance Meeting. I presented my Case and was immediately attacked by those present. I remember saying, "If you have a Problem with me, you need to arrange a Meeting specifically for that Purpose. This is my Grievance meeting to resolve my Complaints". Attempts to present my Case met with nothing but Arguments and Challenges, so after the third attempt, I said, "Okay. I quit".

    The State Department of Employment Security ruled in my favor regarding this situation and I recieved Benefits while Unemployed.

    I kept in contact with some of my Co-Workers fron the CD Unit. They informed me that the other Nurse was encouraged to go into Inpatient Behavioral Health Treatment by some of the Therapists. The other Nurse was being transported to the Behavioral Health Unit when an Escape occurred. I don't know what ever became of this Nurse.

    The CD Unit closed down about 6 months after I quit, There were many Problems related to its Downfall, including a Mass Exodus of Employees.

    The Nurse in need of Inpatient Behavioral Health was not the Sole Cause of Problems leading to the CD Units' demise. However, the situation did exemplify Administration's Tact in dealing with some Employee Problems and the Ramifications of that Ineffective, and somewhat Destuctive, Intervention.
    Last edit by Davey Do on Jun 24, '13 : Reason: spelling
    Meriwhen and VivaLasViejas like this.
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    I don't know if this is helpful given the fact that this one co-worker and I shared an office in assisted living, and not inpatient psych (although sometimes I wasn't sure there's a big difference). But I have to say, if you're bipolar and working with someone who's merely undiagnosed, it makes for some interesting days!

    For one thing, we were actually decent partners because we tended to be in the same mood cycles most of the time. When we were both in an irritable, angry sort of mood, we got a lot done and didn't put up with any BS from our staff. During depressive episodes, we'd sit there in the office with the door shut and cry. It was when we were both experiencing some form of mania that we got into trouble, because neither of us could sit still during staff meetings---one time we got to laughing during one of these, and actually were so disruptive that we were asked to leave.

    This is NOT good when one is in a management role, as she and I were. Truth be told, there were a lot of times when neither of us earned our day's pay, and by the time I lost my job in early May, she was on her way out as well. Mental health issues are still not looked upon kindly in this profession, even among ourselves......especially among ourselves. Perhaps it's different in psych nursing, but out here in the field, nurses with psychiatric problems are often mistreated and almost ALWAYS misunderstood.
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    Everyone has worked with someone suffering mental illness, they may not realize it, but they have.
    imintrouble, tewdles, JDZ344, and 6 others like this.
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    And 60% of people at some time in their lifetime will experience some type of mental illness. i.e anxiety, depression, bipolar, etc
    tewdles, poppycat, and VivaLasViejas like this.
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    Quote from VivaLasViejas
    Perhaps it's different in psych nursing, but out here in the field, nurses with psychiatric problems are often mistreated and almost ALWAYS misunderstood.
    .... and stigmatized
    Meriwhen, imintrouble, tewdles, and 3 others like this.
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    When I first became a nurse, I worked with a nurse with Bipolar. For the most part things were fine, until she was in a manic phase and ran the unit topless. After that she ended up on FMLA. I left shortly after, not sure what happened.
    jrsRN07 and BeOne77 like this.
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    Quote from Kidrn911
    When I first became a nurse, I worked with a nurse with Bipolar. For the most part things were fine, until she was in a manic phase and ran the unit topless. After that she ended up on FMLA. I left shortly after, not sure what happened.
    How sad. People often do things when manic that they would NEVER do in their normal state of mind, and it's absolutely mortifying when they come back down and realize what they've done.

    Something I've found rather interesting about mania is how similar it is to being inebriated---you're wild and free, you're soaring, you're out of control.......and if you're not dysphoric/irritable, you're having a GREAT time! Then comes the crash, and then the hangover, when you're full of remorse for what you did in that feverish rush of activity. And sometimes, you can't even remember everything that happened---just like an alcoholic blackout.

    This is why so many bipolar people have substance-abuse problems, AKA dual diagnosis. It's as though we self-medicate our emotions with intoxicants because we can't, or don't want to deal with our mental-health problems. I can remember taking some pretty big risks when I was young that I long attributed to alcohol use ("Hey, I'm gonna moon somebody on the freeway! Watch THIS!"), but didn't all occur when I was "liquored up", as it were.

    I was stone-cold sober when I threw my backpack into the bed of a co-worker's pickup truck and went to Ensenada, Mexico over a long weekend (and without letting anyone know I was going out of the country). I was dry as a bone when I decided that TODAY was the day I was going to make miniskirts out of all my dresses, and cut six inches of material off each one before I realized that I didn't know how to hem. And I'd been sober for 20 years when I spent $1000 in 2 days at Wal-Mart last summer. And yet, I have only vague memories of those times, just as if I'd been drunk.

    Just a few thoughts on how things can go so terribly wrong for people who are usually just fine.
    NCmcMan and poppycat like this.
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    While I understand mental illness can cause havoc, I am slightly offended that this is even a thread. Like a previous poster said, most everyone has, they may not know it though. This is like us asking "working with colleagues diagnosed with diabetes". Both are common, both, if not treated, can cause issues, but both are very treatable.

    I have to argue that if a nurse/doctor/nursing assistant has a mental illness, is treated, and does not use it as an excuse; they can be an unmatchable asset to the unit/floor.
    BeOne77, aknottedyarn, JDZ344, and 4 others like this.
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    I'm just wondering if it's possible that MOST of the population has some type of mental illness? I've often wondered about this.
    NevadaFighter and BeOne77 like this.

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