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Call for mental health nurses to recognise patients' poor physical health


we had three suicides on my medical ward but because they were all medical cases their conditions could not be cared for on the psychiatric wards. we also had other mh cases such as anorexia nervosa, bulemia, schizophrenia, bipolar depresison, depressive disorders, drug addiction, bpd, alcholism and drug dependence and even a substance dependent fire eater and sword swallower who had bronchoaspirated his fuel! some of the cases were young and the doctors did not wish to stigmatise them by sending them to psychiatry, but for us it was quite a challenge and were not able to provide much of the therapy some required, and also had little time to talk to them as we were an acute medical ward with intake from ICU and we did have quite a few medical emergencies. In fairness, only one of the patients who committed suicide was under the care of a psychiatrist and we did have prior warning when he prepared a noose with his dressing gown cord in his cupboard but this was not enough to convince the medical staff and consultant psychiatrist that he might have been better in the psychiatric unit. the other two, we had absolutely no warning of their inntention. one was suffering from copd and the other had terminal cancer and they had just had enough. the first one mentioned here jumped out of the window of a seven-room male ward on the 7th floor at 6 am before the day staff came on duty. there was a strange atmosphere on the ward but not a single patient said they had seen anything or expressed any desire to talk about it so we are not sure whether anybody did witness it and we did not wish to cause any upset by mentioning it in case they hadn't and there is the possibility that they had all been asleep at the time and unaware of what had happened. Our main concern was for what might have gone on in the minds of these patients and also the hca coming on duty at 7 am was taken straight by the police to identify him as one of our patients on the flat roof below and our very emotive Italian maid who was unfortunate to find the other patient. The former was very stoic about it all and the other far more expressive, but both were reluctant to talk about it, and we did not wish to press the matter as none of us, as generalists, felt at that time that we had enough experience in giving any support needed. Although paradoxically, as generalists, our employers expected us to get on with our work no matter what the speciality and we had to prepared to fill in if necessary in any other area of the university hospital which covered most specialities. Good experience but we did have our limits to which management closed a deaf ear. Accept the assignment or you were out on yours! Rather insultingly to our patients, our two medical clinics were known as the dustbin of the hospital - mainly for reason that nurses did not want to work there. I was one of the few there by choice and found my work fascinating because of the infinite variety of people and cases. I admire mh nurses, I do not condemn them at all but I am curious as to why we were expected to look after mh patients on a medical ward and they were not able to carry out even basic medical care on an mh ward - and this probably had to do with the medical staff as well. Maybe it depends on the organisation, but I have plenty of evidence of this happening.

Posted date

23 March, 2011

Posted time

7:50 pm