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6 Things You Can Expect During an Inpatient Psychiatric Stay

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If you’ve ever seen the movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” it is a terrible depiction of what inpatient hospitalizations look like today with the Nurse Ratched character or the lobotomies performed on patients. Unfortunately, those were the circumstances back in the day, but it doesn’t help to watch a movie that depicts the patients as “loony bins.” I can attest from my experiences, it doesn’t look like that today, nor are we “loony bins.”

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I remember how nervous I was when admitted into inpatient, as I had no idea what to expect. Therefore, I hope I can ease some of your worries with a few things you can expect during a stay.

1. We can’t pick and choose where we go.

Initially, I couldn’t understand why I went into an inpatient so far from home until I began to work at emergency services and was the one calling for open beds for other individuals. It came down to availability, which was not always easy. Therefore, unfortunately, we can’t always pick our inpatient stays like we could a hotel. However, what matters most is receiving proper treatment and becoming healthy.

2. The intake process.

During the intake process, you will meet several providers — a therapist/social worker, psychiatrist, nurses, and mental health counselors. These providers will take you through a succession of steps that often include the following assessments:

  1. Medical, family, and mental health history.
  2. Mental health assessment and evaluation.
  3. Medication evaluation.

You will often have an assigned master’s level therapist or social worker and a psychiatrist throughout. However, if you have been admitted during the weekend or holidays, you might have a temporary psychiatrist and not see your therapist until a regular workday.

3. Sleeping quarters.

More often than not, you will share a room with another individual. Most inpatient centers don’t have many single rooms, which can feel uncomfortable for some. However, many enjoy the company and conversation of other peers.

You want to avoid isolating yourself in your room, but it can also be a haven when you need space, time for yourself, and quiet. And if you do have a roommate, chances are, they won’t always be in the room during the day either.

The bachelor’s level mental health counselors do a headcount every 15 minutes to ensure everyone’s safety throughout the day. So, no matter your location, the staff will do the same in your room, including throughout the night. It is not ideal, but try to remember they are looking out for you if you can.

4. Daily schedule.

All inpatient centers run differently, but they do have set regimens.

Mealtimes are three times a day, but if you miss your meal, staff may be able to put it aside or call down to the cafeteria. However, if the kitchen is closed for the time being, snacks and drinks will often be available in the central area.

Medications have set times for each individual — whether daytime, afternoon, evening, or a combination. A nurse will administer them to you, and it is often a requirement to take them and roll your tongue around in the nurse’s presence to ensure you have taken them.

You will have sessions with your therapist and psychiatrist every one or two days.

There are several daily support groups spread out throughout the day that are either professional or peer-led. And though you don’t have to attend any or all of them, it is highly encouraged to attend one or more to gain knowledge, insight, and support from the facilitator and other peers.

The staff will sometimes take the residents out at particular times, but for the first two or three days, you often will not be able to leave until they ensure that you are safe.

There are designated visitation times. However, with the pandemic, it might be limited.

5. The inpatient stay is typically short-term.

Inpatient stays are not like decades ago, where individuals stayed for months or years. At the time, they didn’t have the resources we do today, and individuals were often left to fend for themselves. However, we have more resources on the outside world than ever before, and therefore, how long we stay in inpatient is typically short-lived.

Unfortunately, the treatment team at inpatient facilities does not have the time a personal therapist or psychiatrist would due to the volume of patients — not to mention insurance companies have a limited maximum stay per individual client. Therefore, your therapist utilizes case management rather than counseling by finding the appropriate services for you, often an outside therapist/prescriber if you don’t have one. They might also recommend a partial hospitalization program (PHP), a day group program that teaches coping skills and can last between days to several weeks. Your inpatient psychiatrist also has a minimal window, so they must work on medication stabilization while you are there to ensure you are safe before discharge.

6. Keep an open mind.

Being hospitalized may not sound like a vacation; however, it can help stabilize you and provide you with resources you might not have known existed. More importantly, an inpatient hospitalization can save your life, which it did me.

Getty image by Wavebreakmedia

Originally published: February 13, 2022
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