PMH Nurse Superheroes
You are a psychiatric-mental health nurse: that's your superpower. In December, we asked for stories from nurses about times they used this superpower to make a difference, find a solution, or provide care to those who needed it most. Here are three psych nurse superheroes who shared their stories:
Linda Hancock, RN
I was working in Psych Central Intake in the emergency room of a local community hospital. A patient diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia was brought in by EMS for erratic behavior. The patient had stopped taking his medications as he was "trying to cleanse his body." The patient posed no harm to himself or others and was cooperative while under my care. The patient complied with the required blood work and urine sample and was pending admission. The admitting MD was concerned that the patient's sodium was low, although the patient was asymptomatic. The ER doctor, who was not a psychiatrist, ordered an IV line to run with sodium. The patient refused. Instead, I provided him with a couple bags of potato chips, which I had to beg the kitchen for. The ER doctor, upon learning of the patient's refusal, ordered IV Ativan and Haldol, as well as physical restraints in order to put in a line. The ER doctor stated to me that the patient was not "competent to make decisions for himself." I asked the doctor who had made that determination as there is a process that needs to be followed before a patient can be deemed incompetent. While I was refusing to assist in this procedure, I heard security overhead paged to my unit to provide assistance. I literally stood between the patient, security and the ER doctor to prevent the forced treatment on my patient.
Luckily, one of the inpatient psychiatrists was on the unit evaluating another patient who was pending admission. Upon explaining to her what was going on, she agreed to accept the patient without the need for IV sodium. It was decided that if the patient should become symptomatic, they would deal with the issue at that time, but since the patient was asymptomatic and sitting calmly on the stretcher, there was no need for the forced IV. My supervisor and manager were both supportive of my decision with regard to this patient. If the patient had been in the regular ER and did not have a psych diagnosis, would the situation have been the same should the patient have refused treatment? No one could provide an acceptable answer. It is up to all of us to change the face of mental illness. A diagnosis of mental illness does not make someone any less of a human or patient. Those with mental illness still deserve to be respected and are fully capable of making decisions for themselves.
Lenore Cortez, MSN, RNC
I love being a Psychiatric Nurse! While in nursing school I began working on a locked Acute Behavioral Health Unit at the local hospital. I worked there for 6 years. During that time I took care of a young man who had schizophrenia. A few years later I began working at the local Community Mental Health Center. I was pleased to see that same gentleman in this outpatient setting. He became one of the patients I saw every other week during injection day.
I developed a good rapport with this client. He would often call me during the week to check-in or stop by the office to chat with me or my co-workers. He did not believe that there was anything wrong with him and often spoke about not wanting to continue with his antipsychotic medications. I always listened to his concerns and tried to offer support. On one such occasion he was having a really bad day. He was agitated and voiced that he felt like nothing mattered and no one cared. But then he told me, “Thank you for always listening to me. You have always been nice to me.” Hearing that from him made me realize how much the small moments we take with our clients really make a positive difference. I am sure anyone who works with people who have SMI knows what it feels like to have self-doubt as we see people at their lowest and sometimes it seems like there is no reprieve. This was evidence that I was on the right track and really was making a difference to someone, even if I sometimes doubted how much I was actually helping people.
I have always compared mental health nursing to being like a pebble dropped into a pond and watching the ripples extending outward. If I can make a difference one ripple at a time to decrease stigma, educate a patient, or just sit and listen, then I have done good in the world.
Stacey Kitchens, PMHNP
I always knew mental health was a passion of mine, but recently my patients with Intellectual Disabilities have become an overwhelming highlight to my day. I am a mother of an Autistic son and have faced many challenges as a mother trying to provide opportunities that will highlight his wonderful qualities. I have not only embraced this population, but often seek out those in need at special needs organizational groups and events.
I feel that our profession is crucial not only for medication management and establishing collaborative relationships, but being a kind, understanding professional in a sea of professional that do not have time to listen to a families daily struggles. This population reminds me why I choose this profession and proud to call myself an PMHNP.
Caring for those who cannot always care for themselves to improve their quality of life. Pretty awesome job!
What's your superhero story? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and it may be featured in an upcoming newsletter.