February 22, 2014
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
Working in a psychiatric ward is not for every health professional, but for those who choose it, it can be one of the most rewarding. The environment can swing from a calm atmosphere to a lockdown with screaming and a belligerent patient. Every day presents new challenges to those who work in this challenging atmosphere. Despite having a high turnover rate, working in in a psych ward can be economically rewarding for those wishing to enter the field.
If you decide that a psych ward is where you want to spend a portion, if not all, of your medical career, then you must meet the educational and emotional requirements this high stress position entails. A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for any medical professional in a psych ward, with doctors and nurses needing additional training in this highly demanding field. The ability to understand the various challenges of the psych ward requires that the people working there will be handle the rigorous demands, unique situations, and patient needs that only specific training can adequately address.
The ability to work in a psych ward, while requiring a high level of educational expertise, also requires a high level of professionalism, integrity, and an ability to maintain composure in what can be a highly volatile field of medical care. Patients at a mental hospital may be there because of incarceration and feel hostility or resentment about being there. The ability to maintain a high degree of professionalism and patience is critical to being a successful part of the psych ward medical team. The types of patients vary between a private mental health institution and a public facility. State institutions often include sex offenders, drug and alcohol addicts, and people with psychiatric illnesses as schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, clinical depression, and many others. In a private institution, you usually don’t have incarcerated patients. Patients are there because they realize they need help, or people are there because a psychiatrist and the patient’s family have determined that the patient needs be in an inpatient psychiatric setting. No matter the setting, the psych ward is a challenging and ever-changing landscape that provides a serious respite from the mundane.
Patience with Patients
Hostility and resentment are two attitudes that you may notice as many patients do not want to be in such a setting. There are patients who may at times experience verbal and audio hallucinations that may cause them to strike out or attempt to strike out against others. Some may hold delusional belief systems and if there beliefs are threatened they may become verbally or physically aggressive. You will encounter patients who seemingly talk to themselves. In many cases, they are just responding to voices that they hear. Other hallucinations will cause some patients to look around as if they are seeing objects, people, animals or other things that simply aren’t there. Still others may have strange body movements such as twitches, tremors, rubbing together of the fingers and much more. Some of these behaviors may result from brain tumors, brain injury, or in some cases they are a side effect of medication. These actions may also just be a symptom of their mental illness. Some mental patients may appear rude or angry without meaning to appear so. Sometimes they are just reacting to the symptoms of their disease or condition. Because of this it is important to understand as these patients may feel immense guilt over the way they treat people during stages of their mental illness.
In short, be prepared to see the worst of the worst if you choose to work in the psych ward. However, there is a great opportunity to help patients rise from their own personal darkness, and the ability to help a patient to heal these internal factures comes with great personal reward. — Post by Madelaine Kingsbury.