My stay on a psychiatric ward was a bit of a shocker. No one explained what was happening, why it was happening or what to expect. It seemed there were 1,000 unwritten rules for patients to abide by – or, if they were written down somewhere, they were not communicated to patients. And, as a result, we never knew what was expected or what we’d done wrong.
If only I had had someone to explain how things worked, my stay would have been much more therapeutic. If only staff had communicated with me rather than turning up mob-handed to wordlessly pin me down and inject me with unnamed drugs then disappear. If only staff had taken simple steps like telling me when mealtimes were, rather than waiting for me to spot the trolley being wheeled away from the dining area then saying I was too late to eat. Again. If only I’d been given the ward Welcome Pack on day 1. Rather than day 8.
I know there is great psychiatric inpatient care out there and, even where there isn’t, there are hints and tips that will help inpatients get a more positive experience of their stay on ward.
- Are you a patient on ward now? What questions do you have? What advice so far has been helpful to you? Perhaps you wonder why your phone charger has been taken. Or why there’s someone watching you and making notes on a clipboard several times an hour. Or how to get hold of tampons and a toothbrush.
- Have you been an inpatient on a mental health ward before? What would you have liked to know when you first arrived? What tips would you like to have been told? What advice do you have for someone who’s being treated on a psychiatric ward for the first time?
- Are you a member of staff – a health care assistant, nurse, occupational therapist, cleaner, doctor, advocate? What advice would you give to patients on their first stay on a psychiatric ward that would help them understand the experience and get the most from it?
- Are you an AMHP or police officer who takes people to psychiatric wards or places of safety? What would you like patients to know?
“No one has explained anything yet. […] Do staff watch you all the time when you are sectioned? It is normal for this to happen? I don’t like it at all! Makes me angry!”
Student mental health nurse Kathryn Finch (@Kat_Finch) tweeted back:
“It’s just to monitor how you are and if there’s improvement or not in how you are. They’re looking after you, try to stay calm. You’ll be on obs for at least the first 24 hours. It all depends on how you’re presenting and the risks they feel are there.”
Hopefully that advice was reassuring and useful. Please let me know – either in the comments below or on Twitter – so we can share the best tips for patients on psychiatric wards for the first time.
- My Storify story of tips received by Twitter so far … hopefully more to add!
- The Code of Practice to the Mental Health Act – guidance to staff on their powers and duties, which can give patients an idea of what to expect
- The Nice Guidelines on Service User Experience in Adult Mental Health – this is the experience NHS care providers are supposed to provide
- The Wardipedia website’s tips on welcoming new patients