Many nurses are uncomfortable, frustrated or at a loss with how to deal with a patient who has mental illness, such as bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, as a
co-morbidity. You may feel you didn’t sign up for psych nursing, but the reality is, mentally ill people get sick. Actually they have a higher mortality but that’s another sad fact and post.
- Treat them like anyone else-with respect. They are someone’s daughter, sister, brother. They have feelings and sense your heart. Do not tolerate mocking by your co-workers.
- Recognize it’s a medical illness. They have a chronic bio-physiologic disorder that can be diagnosed, managed and treated like other medical illnesses. Diabetes, for example.
- Having a mental illness is not a lifestyle or a choice. No one chooses to have Bipolar Disorder or to have an illness which ostracizes them from society.
- As a result of their illness, they may be cognitively impacted and can be socially inappropriate with lack of insight.Frontal lobe involvement can result in impulsivity, poor judgment and lack of filter.
- Be clear and give step by step directions. Do not give rapid, complex instructions. Repeat if needed. Do not expect perfect retention.
- Re focus if they are perseverating/repeating themselves. As an example, try offering a snack, or taking a walk in the hallway.
- A high per cent of people with mental illness smoke cigarettes. Factoid- smoking helps to decrease auditory hallucinations. Meaning I don’t judge folks who have a mental illness and smoke. At any rate, get them started on a nicotine patch ASAP.
I would love to hear what you’ve learned to help with this population.
Until next time friend,
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