My first week during my psych rotation at the VA in La Jolla, my instructor tried to ease all of our fears heading into this rotation by saying, "The patients in this unit are stable and in a controlled environment. The patient 'in the wild'...well, you just don't know." She wanted all of the nervous students to know that the safest place to learn about psych nursing was, indeed, a psych unit with appropriate staffing, medications, and care plans.
It made so much sense to me immediately. My pulse rate went from 130 bpm to 80 bpm just like that.
Now, I laugh to myself when other nurses say they "don't do psych." I want to reply (and sometimes I do), "Actually, you 'do psych' every day."
Whether you are working in the ED, a Medical Surgical floor, or a maternity unit, you are working with mental Illness. Perhaps most people are unaware of the statistics?
If you understand the statistics, you understand that mental illness is at the grocery store, standing in line with you at Starbucks, and probably occupying one of the 5 beds you are assigned to on your unit.
When our pain doc is working, one in five of our beds has a patient that is on at least a medication to help with depression. It doesn't matter the specialty. The statistics don't change.
I always explain to new nurses that the patients we see for electroconvulsive therapy are seeking an elective treatment. They desperately want help. They are advocating for themselves and are being proactive in their care. How many patients can you say that about in the Emergency Department?
One of the many wonderful things about nursing is that we do, in fact, wear many different hats. We care for all kinds of different people suffering from a multitude of illnesses. It is important that we realize our "specialty" is not limited.
One of the first lessons in nursing: TREAT THE WHOLE PERSON
Don't forget it.