The Challenge of Treating Mental Illness
This week I began my psych rotation at a psychiatric hospital in Maryland. The hospital I’ll be working at is strictly an inpatient facility on an expansive private campus, with several buildings and wards. At the beginning of this week, after my orientation and tour of the impressive hospital grounds, my new preceptor introduced me not only to my daily duties, but also to each of the patients I will be getting to know and working closely with over the next 4 weeks.
There are 22 patients in the ward I’m assigned to, and most of them are chronic patients who have been there for several years. The patients are all at an extremely low level of independent functioning, and for different reasons, outside of the hospital, most of the patients pose harm to themselves and others. My preceptor informed me that, unfortunately, all of them most likely will require this type of inpatient care and close monitoring for the rest of their lives.
Almost instantaneously upon meeting my group, it was obvious that in addition to their psychiatric disease, the majority of the patients are also plagued with the somatic issues that are common in patients who are on psychiatric medications. Within the first 2 hours of my interactions with these patients, and after learning each of their individual back-stories, I already felt an overwhelming sadness for these people and what their life has become as a result of their devastating illness.
I also noticed how intimidating it was on my first day, walking into a room of patients who I quickly noticed could be very unpredictable. Needless to say, with only a few experiences in my past of working with patients from this population, at the end of my first day I was left feeling a little out of my element and hoping that soon I’d find my niche on this rotation.
Despite this new type of patient encounter, which is unlike anything I’ve been exposed to on past rotations, I can say that I’m already feeling grateful for getting the chance to reach out to and learn from these patients. I’m hoping that on this rotation I’ll be able to form a relationship with my group and gain valuable experience that I can take away and apply to all the patients I treat in the future with mental illness.