My Psychiatry Work Experience Placement

I applied through the NHS to do a psychiatry work experience placement and very luckily got one at a hospital very close to home! On the Monday, all of the work experience students met and we had a day full of talks to kick off the week. We had talks mainly introducing us to psychiatry and helping to bust some mental health myths and remove the stigma that exists around mental health which this week opened my eyes to. We were talked to about individual illnesses such as dementias, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. We did workshops including CPR, choking and sim men. A patient came in and very bravely answered any questions we had about his bipolar disorder. It was inspiring and eye-opening for me to meet him, as he was so well spoken and had a very good quality of life yet was obviously suffering a very difficult internal battle.
Throughout the week I was shadowing a psychiatrist who worked three and a half days the week practicing psychology and the other one and a half doing a research project on dementia with levy bodies. She was very intelligent, lovely and easy to get along with. On the first day I experienced an MDT meeting, which really highlighted to me how these specialised teams work, the different roles of the team, the delegation and working together that has to occur for the team to be successful. There were consultant psychiatrists, psychologists, receptionists and psychology nurses. The psychiatrist did home visits as well as visiting hospital wards and nursing homes. Throughout the week I experienced heart-renching cases and stories. There was one man who’s story really stuck with me. We read his file before going into the nursing home and it explained that he had a form of schizophrenia, but was also being very overly sexual and violent to the staff, who weren’t sure how they were going to deal with his behaviour any longer and were requesting for him to be moved to another home. Before the assessment I was a little scared to go in and see this man because of what I had read in his file. Mid way through his assessment, he began crying about the delusions and hallucinations he was having and began to have one, getting very frightened. The man who i’d been scared to meet was just really very vulnerable and scared, and it was absolutely heartbreaking to see. I found it very difficult to contain my emotions and to hold back my tears. This is just one example of the very many upsetting assessments I experienced.
Throughout the week, the psychiatrist didn’t fail to amaze me. Her communication skills really were at the centre of every assessment. Despite the staff often saying things like “you won’t get a word out of him” and such remarks, the psychiatrist always managed to calm the patient and completed the assessments to the absolute best of her ability, often encouraging me to ask the patients questions. This helped me to confront questions we usually avoid in everyday life such as questions to dow with suicide and self harm.
Pharmaceuticals were a massive part of her job. Prescribing drugs at the right dose and altering dosages etc.
The placement demonstrated to me the emotional challenges of working within medicine, but I feel gave me the experience I needed to think about the challenges and learn a little about how to overcome them.
The importance of mental health and the obvious stigma that still exists around it, I used my position as head girl to open up a mental health campaign in our school, encouraging people to talk about mental health, information about what help they can get and aiming to remove the stigma in the school environment.

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