The Crisis Unit, my experience as a Psychiatric Technician.
I was 20 years old. I walked on to a locked unit to counsel teenagers that were a few years younger than I. (What had I gotten myself in to?) My title, Psychiatric Technician (psych tech). I had completed a behavioral assessment test and my background working in mental health since my senior year of high school assured that my possible employment would be considered. I was asked to come in and train for a position. My training; two weeks of intense 8-12 hour days with tests and proper physical restraint technique drills (three, four, and six-man). The inclusion of a basic first responder certificate was also to be obtained by the end of the two weeks. I started training with a class of twelve. Eight of us finished.
I had worked the previous summer as a camp counselor for children with aggressive tendencies and educational challenges. I knew once the summer was over I would need to get a real job, my first year of college didn’t go so great. I needed time to plan my next move, I wouldn’t be returning to college that fall. Some of my fellow counselors had asked me to apply for a position at a psychiatric hospital where they worked during the school year. During the summer, fewer counselors were needed on the unit as summers for teenagers is the time to run wild. However, come fall, the school system maintained an accountability factor for the whereabouts of the students. This is when a non-compliant teen with the severe behavioral issues would end up in a locked unit. So camp counseling in the summer and the unit during the school year… it sounded good to a 19-year-old (soon to be twenty)!
Bang, click! The door slammed and locked behind me. I was ready, I had aced my training, but my entire inner being was shaking. I was assigned to the adolescent crisis unit. There were short-term and long-term units. The crisis unit was just that… a two-week crisis holding unit for evaluation and placement to one of the other units, or secured holding while incarceration evaluations could be conducted.
I walked down a long corridor with doors to bedrooms on my right. On my left were a community room and the nurse’s station. I turned left down another hallway where the classrooms were. We would be having a staff meeting in one of these rooms. Our unit’s psychiatric head nurse was in charge of the shift.
I was assigned to 4 patients. Responsibilities included getting them to their required activities and psychiatrist sessions. We were to have one-to-one counseling sessions each shift with our patients following ‘SOAP’ (Subject, Objective, Affect, Plan) notations in their charts. Each of us had an assigned area of the unit to monitor. Then there would be admissions. Depending on the number of admissions scheduled, we could nominate one tech and take their patients, or we could each do an admission.
Finally, there was the assignment for emergency response teams. If the intercom announced ‘Dr. Green,’ one tech was to go walking to the unit announced to assist with calming down a patient and participate in a possible 6 point restraint. (This literally means there are six people doing a restraint to ensure the patient is not harmed.) ‘Dr. Blue’ was a fire; unlock unit entrance doors and make sure the entire unit was evacuated. Then there was ‘Dr. Red’ which was to send at least two psych tech’s running to assist with an uncontrollable unit, staff possibly in danger!
These techs were not playing! It was my first day, but they definitely were going to test me. I was young, the youngest ever (I found out later) to be employed as a psych tech on their unit and they honestly didn’t think I’d make it. You had to trust your fellow employees in tough circumstances. I was assigned to ‘Dr. Red’ and had three patients that were violent and one with suicidal tendencies… I also was to complete one of the three admissions scheduled for that day … so another tech would observe my patients while I was doing the admit.
Little did I know this one admission would end up making or breaking me.
My first admission and I can remember every detail, this was nothing like I had trained for. This was real, and I almost assaulted this girl’s father. (Smug perverted molester.) I wanted to beat the crap out of him…the psych nurse was able to physically stop me from reaching the man I so badly want to beat… she pulled me outside and told me to walk it off, she would finish the admit. I thought ‘I’m done, probably fired.’ So I walked to the bathroom and threw up. I couldn’t stomach what I had just heard.
What this young girl of 14 had been through…
(To be continued…)