Working in a Psychiatric Ward – Overview

The daily routine of nurses working with patients with mental illness is not easy. Yet they have chosen to practise this profession. What are their challenges and motivations?

Combating prejudices

“Some nurses think that their colleagues in psychiatry lose their skills in physical care. It’s obviously false. They provide this care as in other departments,” states Lorraine Plante, Assistant Director of Nursing and Multidisciplinary Services at the Institut Philippe-Pinel in Montreal. “I also explain to nursing students that mental health issues are not limited to psychiatric units,” she adds. Helping a patient recover obviously involves both their psychological and physical integrity.

An indispensable teamwork

Although the work of liaison with doctors is similar to that of other hospital services, in the psychiatric environment nurses work every day with other participants: sociotherapists, psychiatrists, intervention agents, psychologists, nurses, etc. “Being part of a multidisciplinary team means having a very rich professional and human experience,” explains Mrs. Plante. “This collaborative work is also the means for improving a patient’s condition.”

Daily challenges

The mission of the Institut Philippe-Pinel makes it a unique Canadian hospital facility. The role and experience of the psychiatric nursing personnel is unique. They are more in forensic psychiatry, since the 600 patients cared for each year at the Institut are suffering from mental illnesses associated with violent behaviour. “About 85% of our patients are inmates. Their rehabilitation requires a lot of empathy, hindsight and interest in the human being in general by caregivers,” says Lorraine Plante. “The nurse has a pivotal role – it is often she who brings together, who contributes to the fact that problems of psychiatric danger does not let us forget that we are working primarily for the patient’s well-being.”

Rewarding work

Although the relationship with the patient can be intense, seeing it from leaving a very heavy situation, then developing during his hospitalization, represents a real satisfaction. “Even though working as a team is demanding, the results obtained are a significant source of motivation,” the assistant director says.

“Between professionals, there are many bonds of respect and esteem created,” concludes Lorraine Plante. “I often hear it said that the Institut is much more than an institution and that working there is like being part of a large family…”

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