Confessions of a Psychiatric NurseThere is no way to work as a psychiatric nurse on a psych ward of a mental hospital and not learn something about life.

I have met some of the strangest and most original individuals. When people find out where I have worked for the last 22 years, their mouths hang open in awe. Most of the time the phrase, "I don't know how you do it" is mentioned, as they shake their heads.

Yes, this is an incredibly interesting career path. Still, there are things about working in a mental health institution that I don't like. You just have to bite your tongue and grit your teeth through it.

3 Things I Dislike About Psychiatric Nursing:

  • Someone who comes into the hospital just so they can get a check (aka crazy check) when they are clearly healthy but truly too damn lazy to work. Prisoners who come in and break furniture, trigger violence, share their rude and unintelligent slurs to the staff and demean them, because they have nothing to lose and will be going back to jail.
  • Restraining someone in the bed. It makes my heart hurt to see someone, or have to place someone, in that situation. Even though I know at the time it has to be done, because all other options have been exhausted, sometimes it is necessary to protect the staff and the patient. 
  • Staff who forget how blessed they are because they have a place to go home to, when a patient is crying because they are homesick and can't return to their home.

We often forget that the people we serve had a life before they arrived in the unit. They attended school, had some kind of home, have a mother, father, wife, husband, and/or children. When a new patient comes, I always make sure to learn about who they are, not who the chart says they are. I want to know where they used to work, where they went to school, how many brothers and sisters they have, and whether they are married and/or have children. I realized that whenever I approach a patient as a person, rather than as a patient, they open up and let down the walls that they come in with. I get to peep inside of their lives for just a moment and that's the true essence of patient care.

Life Lessons from Patients

I have not always liked working in chaos and in hazardous and dangerous situations, but I have always liked talking to the ones I meet. They have shown me that we are all one step away from the admissions office when life hands us more than we can bare. They have taught me that just because I can't see delusions and hallucinations doesn’t mean they are not real. They have taught me the feelings of real compassion for another human when they can't help themselves. They have taught me that being with family is not always the safest place to be. At times, families hurt family members deeper than a stranger does.

What part of being a psychiatric nurse don't you like? Tell us in the comments below.