Tuesday, 13 March 2012

My experience of psychiatric wards

I would like to now dispose of many assumptions you may have made about what psychiatric wards are like. Even nowadays, many people think that the patients are drugged up and left to sit and dribble and are spoon-fed! Films such as One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest and K-Pax don't help, and I would like to describe to you how amazing mental health wards can be, and what a therapeutic environment they provide for their temporary residents.

I will begin by stating that currently the government are trying to get rid of mixed wards and only create wards that are either all-male or all-female. I had a 6 week placement on an all-female ward and absolutely loved it. Most of the patients engaged really well with me and one lady even baked me a cake on my last day! This ward had 12 beds, an art room, two lounges, a dining room, a garden with a smoking terrace, a quite room, and several bathrooms and shower rooms along with the spacious bedrooms upstairs. The staff were absolutely brilliant and we frequently took some patients out for a walk (those who were granted leave by the Consultant).

Of course, these wards are psychiatric wards and there will be patients on there who are struggling with their own mental health problems, and sometimes this can escalate into verbal or physical aggression. All staff I have come across have had excellent skills at deescalating these situations.

I think it is important to have a positive view of these places, as you never know if someone you care about may need to visit one for a while, and too many people see it as a negative thing. It is obviously needed by that person at that time, and it is all about providing a safe environment with professionals where they can recover and get back to their homes :)

There is definitely potential for quality of life on a psychiatric ward!


  1. When I first started working on psych units, my initial reaction was that "everyone/everything looks so normal!" I mean, there was differences because they are psych units, but all of them--even the ICU--was nothing like what you see in the movies.

    Of course, I haven't worked in a state facility...I hear that is the closest one can get to how psych units are portrayed in fiction.

  2. From what you described, it sounds like you did your placement in a private ward...which is completely different to a state facility.
    I've been a patient in a state facility, they are overworked, underpaid and under appreciated (well some of them, some are just plain bad at their job)and there is bed shortages, so people are 2 to a room, have to share bathrooms and there is no art room. Entertainment consists of one TV and there is usually not enough staff to do any outings, so unless you have unaccompanied leave, or have family close by then you are stuck inside.
    I wish you well in your new career :)

  3. The ward where I was placed was a National Health Service (NHS) ward, so it was not private and patients did not have to pay. It might be different in America?