I was working as a Psychiatric Technician in the late 1980’s. You can refer back to my posts by following Before I Tripped Over a Stone, Fridays.
One thing I need to mention…
The patients were being cared for by psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, and certified therapists. The psychiatric technicians (like me) were responsible for getting patients to their appointments, to therapy, to family sessions… we were more patient management than treatment staff. I just wanted to clarify that. These patients had the best psychiatric care and were treated by some of the top psychiatrists in the state.
The first post about my psych tech position is;
I had been approved to float for three shifts to the adult 6-bed unit. The adult units were in a different hospital than the adolescent units. I had been on this site working the adult unit for depression, and the adult long-term unit. We were required to float 8 shifts per quarter. It kept us tuned into other staff, and unit protocols. There were some floats that were easier than others. Six-bed was one that many dreaded but to be honest, I dreaded floating to the children’s unit. I just had a hard time seeing children in a locked unit and an even harder time with the parents! (Not saying that there was ‘fault,’ just more therapy needed for the entire family and a different setting for most of those children.)
I received my patient for my 6-bed stint, yes, one patient per tech as you shadowed them even to the restroom. My emergency pager was secured to my belt. And in I went … accidentally setting my pager off once during my three shifts. Good Lord!!! They had the WWE response team for that unit! I was impressed. These patients were extremely ill, extraordinarily violent and actively practiced self-harm. Any more information would only be for shock value, and that is not my intention with this post.
I worked those three shifts, and it took every bit of training I ever had received to come through unscathed with my patient. I did it. My patient made it three days without incident. I was ready to go back to crisis. I was going to miss my patient. She was so ill, mentally. I felt so sad for her, and I grieved for her. Her mental illness did not start until her late thirties. She had been a teacher and was a mom. Then all of that was replaced by ‘voices’ and an inability to care for herself. That is how cruel mental illness can be. Cruel.
I returned to the crisis unit. I returned to the unit knowing I did everything I could. There was no doubt left about “N.” I had to make sure I had done my job, and I did.
We had a rash of adolescents come in with drug-induced psychosis. It was spring break. They were mixing alcohol and pills. These types of combinations can kill you, but what they don’t tell you is that these combinations can just fry your brain, forever.
These patients were matched with staff on a one to one basis per shift. We had a procedure called ‘snowing’ them. They were given medication to make them sleep, giving the brain time to rest and hopefully jump start again, processing information correctly. I don’t know what was in those shots that were given, that was way above my pay grade. For 42 hours the patient would be snowed. We stayed with them around the clock, they were never, ever to be left alone. We spoon feed them, took minute by minute notes. And literally willed them to come back. We talked to them, read to them, played music. When they were brought back out … they were better, or they were sent to an institution.
The worst for these patients (as well as the staff) was the 72 hours beforehand when we had to observe and take notes to produce the necessary paperwork for the procedure to be carried out. Everyone had to sign off on the procedure, up to and including God himself. (I think.)
These patients came in hallucinating and aggressive; sexually and physically. It took all of us working together to keep the ’72 hour holds’ away from the rest of the patients. We were successful the majority of times. At other times we’d have the kids go to their rooms or gather in one of the therapy rooms until we could regain some form of containment over the patient who was having a psychotic episode. I had worked several shifts along with my co-workers with two young gals, both were snowed, one recovered the other was not so lucky, she had to be institutionalized.
A big black limo delivered our next drug-induced psychotic patient to us from Chicago. His father was a big man, thick accent (Russian?) and walked in with his son from hospital admissions. He wanted his son to be treated on our unit. There were no insurance hoops to jump through, this guy had paid cash. When this man’s son walked into the unit, I don’t know if it was shock, fear, or sheer amazement? This kid had to be close to 280 pounds, he was not fat. He was huge! Tall! Muscular! He had jet black hair, and when he turned to look at me, he had no eyebrows. He had shaved off his eyebrows! I had never seen anything like it, black eyes and no eyebrows … welcome “Mr. Big.”
(To be continued…)