A Psychiatric unit, now that is a world of its own. I’ve actually seen someone make a dentist appointment to avoid doing a shift there. It’s been said that there are only two kinds of nurses, those that deal with the neck up, and those that deal with the neck down. They rarely switch sides. I generally would rather volunteer for an elective root canal than work a shift on an ICU, however I seem to be in the vast minority.
Something happens to a person when they reach the locked entrance of a psych unit. A built-in alert system seems to kick in to remind you that there is a reason this door is locked. Are they keeping me out, them in, or both? Rest assured, it’s both, and your tension level gets an inevitable boost once you pass through that door. Of course, you may first have to speak to someone on the other side either via phone or a fast food style speaker on the wall just to gain access. Once inside, it’s as if you just crashed your ex’s wedding in a bad 80s movie. The music comes to a screeching halt and everyone stops what they are doing to look at who just came in. In reality, the staff tends to welcome a new face on the unit, and generally feels the need to protect them from any potential mishaps.
The patient’s reaction of course varies wildly. Are you a superhero doctor here to rescue them, or a demon that has come to drag them to hell? Perhaps you appear to be Elvis Presley, or their mother. Either way, there are endless possibilities as to how you will be received, but in general, fear not. Contrary to popular belief, it is unlikely that as a visitor any harm will come to you at the hand of a psychiatric patient.
The regular staff however, plays a different role and suffers different consequences. They have the privilege of playing a more permanent role in the life of a psychologically disturbed patient. That can be good or bad, depending on how successfully, and carefully that role is played. Are they stuck being the superhero doctor, or the demon (or Elvis). Either way, a skilled professional should be able to manipulate that appearance into something therapeutic. With the hope of eventually shifting that patient’s perception back to a more reasonable place. And for the nonprofessional, this can be a hilarious opportunity to entertain yourself for a 12 hour shift.