1.28.2008

The Milieu

Today was orientation day for psych clinicals. My Cohort includes 24 people, including myself. We've been assigned to a medium-security forensic nursing unit, which means that the consumers have all either been committed by the court system or have some kind of court judgement awaiting them.

It's a pretty large campus. I got there a half-hour early and went to a few buildings before wandering in to the HR department to ask for directions. No one seemed to know anything about my cohort, so I convinced them to let me use a computer to check our courseware, where I could check a forum posting that contained the location. I was suprised how easy it was to gain unsupervised access to their computers. What if I had been a consumer?

The orientation day was a lot like those timeshare meetings you can go to in exchange for free lift tickets at a ski resort. We were actually being sold positions there through three hours or so of explanations of the benefits of working for this facility specifically, and the state department of mental health and addiction services in general.

It wasn't a bad sell, really. After three years they pay up to 24 hours of your schedule to go to school and further your education, and offer reasonable benefits. My gripes were the amount of paid leave they offer and the lack of vision insurance. That aside, working for the state in a job that's considered "hazardous duty" can be a pretty sweet deal. Some of my misconceptions about psychiatric nursing were dispelled as well, since psych nurses DO seem to do quite a bit of health assessments outside of psych issues. Still, though, although I could do psych right out of school, it doesn't seem like it would count very much towards getting into the acute-care setting, so I'll leave it as something to try out later.

The campus has a great cafe that's open to the public, eating breakfast and lunch there for the next few weeks will be a delight. Cheap, too, you can get a decent breakfast for a buck-fifty. The rest of the campus ain't bad either. We're getting the full walking tour tomorrow (along with our first patient care day), but we've been told it includes greenhouses, a radio station, a beauty parlor, gyms in every building, and a relatively new idea (so we're told) in psych treatment called a "treatment mall". Consumers have to leave their units to undergo treatments instead of having everything done in the same unit. That's how it works for most of them, anyway. There are higher degrees of security where everything's still done on the unit. We took a walk through this mall today, it's kind of like a mini shopping mall, where consumers can work in the shops under the supervision of job-coaches. It's intended to prevent the consumers from becoming institutionalized, they say. The campus also boasts a huge library. It still reeks of the "institutional setting" in some places, but I haven't seen the actual unit yet and..hey, it's the State, what do you expect? I expect I'll enjoy my rotation there, for sure.

A friend of mine used to work at this facility years ago as a psych RN, she seemed thrilled when I told her I'd be doing my rotation there. According to her, she's the reason that facility stopped using straightjackets all those years ago. She had to stop practicing because she developed MS. I told her I was a little bummed that I'd have to wait a few weeks before I got back to acute med/surg, so she let me administer her duoneb inhalation treatment and her baclofen. What a sweetie.

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