A Day On The Inpatient Unit Continues…

Light of the full moon!
Light of the full moon!

The stories I am going to tell you are based on real events. The names have been changed due to the confidential nature of the subject matter. Also, some other changes have been made to make the story flow. These events happened during the late 1980’s through the early 1990’s. I worked on the Mental Health Inpatient Unit as a Clerk. I was working a three-day weekend, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It was a twelve-hour day for three days, totaling thirty-six hours. The hours were grueling but we had four days off which more than made up for the long hours that we worked.

My story begins on a bright October Sunday afternoon. We got the call that a patient had gone AWOL, which I promptly told the Charge Nurse who then told me to announce it over the loudspeaker. This was standard procedure, first the announcement, then everyone who wasn’t busy would gather at the Nurse’s Station, which was right behind my station. Both my station and the Nurse’s Station were enclosed with sliding glass windows which enabled us to see out into the Day Room and beyond. This was important so that we could see all the activity and interaction between the patients.

The Charge Nurse would decide who was going to go after the patient. The patient who went AWOL was male and a regular on the Unit. Most of the people chasing him, knew him well as he had been admitted into the Inpatient Unit on many occasions. So a few of the HT’s, PT’s and sometimes the Charge Nurse herself, would go after the patient if we were shorthanded. This time the Charge Nurse decided she was going to join the others to go after the AWOL patient. Security was also alerted, usually consisting of one person who patrolled the parking lot for patients who may be wandering around. We kept in touch through walkie talkies then, since it was the early 1990’s.

There were four people plus security looking for the AWOL patient. He was spotted running through the parking lot, heading towards the ER (emergency room). The hospital was a short distance from the Unit and the ER entrance was the first door you came to from the parking lot. The patient was running at a pretty good clip and had almost reached the door to the ER, when Jennifer, the Charge Nurse, who was the closest to the patient, fell down on one knee.

She threw her hands down to break her fall and let out a cry as her knee hit the pavement. Blood started to spurt out of her injured knee when all of a sudden the patient, instead of running into the ER as he intended, stopped in his tracks, turned toward the injured Charge Nurse as though he wanted to help. He said, “You better be careful Jennifer.”

He then turned back towards the hospital door which opened automatically and disappeared through the ER entrance with the others following closely at his heels.

A Day On The Inpatient Unit

I worked at the Mental Health Inpatient Unit for a number of years and during that time many things happened both funny and serious, even dangerous. My usual shift was from 3:30pm to Midnight! Ours was the busiest shift for admitting patients, mostly patients brought in by the police, who wrote a 5150, which was a 72 hour Hold on a patient, who then could be held, as being either a Danger to himself or Others or Gravely Disabled.

I worked in a clerical position as a Ward Clerk, doing all the necessary paperwork, making announcements over the loudspeaker and taking calls. I worked closely with the Charge Nurse who as the name implies was in charge of everyone and every thing on the Unit. There were a number of Psychiatric Technicians, (PT),  which depended on the number of patients and each PT was responsible for so many patients. Also there were a number of Health Technicians (Health Techs.) again depending on the number of patients we had, but usually we had about three or four Health Techs, (HT).  They did just about everything from helping a patient to and from the bathroom to helping the PT’s put a patient in seclusion. Sometimes in restraints, sometimes not. There were two Psychiatrists on the Unit during the day shift which was 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and one doctor on the evening shift, 3:30 to midnight. We had beds for 34 patients with sometimes an overflow of up to 40 patients. Then for the NOX shift which was from 11:30 p.m. to 7 a.m., a doctor was on call. Also, the Crisis Team was in the building next to the Mental Health Inpatient Unit building. The Crisis Team interviewed anyone coming in on their own and not with the police: They were also available to the staff on the Unit whenever an emergency arose.

So, as you can see the Unit was a very serious place for everyone involved, workers, patients, families and doctors. But as often happens even in emergency or crisis situations, sometime funny things do happen and you have to laugh if only to relieve the tension which usually abounded in such places.

To be continued.