No joke, it’s true. I’m a psych nurse. I retired once and returned to nursing full time within two years. “Why?” many asked. Lots of reasons, and a topic for another day. “But you’ve not done this before,” friends and family commented with concern. I admit I felt pulled and challenged to commit to something I once feared. Good news, It’s going well and I really like it.
It’s been nearly a year working in a state hospital with severely mentally ill patients. The vast majority are lovable in spite or because of their illnesses. There are many terrific people who work in this system. I need to write about it as a way to process and take care of me, to increase awareness and reduce fears about mental illness and hopefully to inform and entertain. Characters, events and tales are fiction and any resemblance of actual people, places are coincidental.
Psychiatry was the last rotation of my nurse training decades ago. I hated it!. I found the location and patients frightening, and the staff callous and as damaged as the patients. The instructor, Mrs. Castle was spooky with a flat facial expression and Mona Lisa smile. Therapeutic communication seemed inefficient and vague. At the time, Castle offered two memorable lessons: the benefits (soundless steps)of her crepe-soled shoes and the importance of coffee to stimulate a well timed and formed BM in the AM. Stick with me people, nurse stories often discuss seldom spoken topics.
In spite of my resistance, fear and arrogance, dang Mrs. Castle pounded in a lot of learning, techniques, and communication tools that have sustained me throughout my nursing career. So there’s a big lesson here that I have tested repeatedly and almost always continues to amaze. Fear and resistance guide to the exact challenge that should and can be faced. It never fails to teach or guide me to where or whom I need to know.
Why would a grey haired grandma on Medicare go back to direct patient care in an antiquated facility, with some of the sickest mentally ill? A Psychiatrist that I hold in high esteem suggested that she could see me working with this population. It was as simple and direct as, “I think you could do this.” Secondly I prayed about where I could be most useful. Finally I am at a point in life that I have a heart that is both tough and soft enough to love those seen as marginally loveable or lost. I laugh it off but also believe this period will be my Mother Teresa years. Psych nursing can be less physically demanding and a good fit for those who move a little slower than yesteryear.
Applying and interviewing for work can be intimidating. Heck, getting someone to take a look a 40 + year work history is nearly miraculous. The old rule about, it’s who you know, or using your contacts to grease the wheels still holds true today in my experience, at least to open a door or getting a call. Well obviously I got the job. My husband thought I had lost my mind…………more on that later.