Working in a psychiatric environment can at times be very challenging. This is not only because it is a job which requires a high emotional input, but also because, by the time you meet the patients, they have already been through hell. The closest person they come into contact with at that moment in time may just be the person onto whom their anger and frustration gets released.
But, that being said, these environments are also places of hope. Where the hope (that you may have felt was lost forever) returns. It is a place where your faith in humanity gets restored. It takes a very special type of person with a real passion to pick up that responsibility, whether you are a classic mental health care worker such as a doctor, nurse or therapist, or if you are working behind the scenes to make sure the system keeps running smoothly. Each of these people, through their care, is able to change people’s lives.
As a society, we are very quick to praise the doctors and faces of these health care establishments for the care and improvement in patients’ lives (not that we shouldn’t) but today, I want to take a moment to tell you about the first line of contact – our reception and admission staff. They are often the first people an individual, who is so very anxious and scared, sees or, as I mentioned earlier, the first person onto whom that anger can be released. So often in businesses we think that a doctor is the one who works the hardest in these scenarios, but one doctor has told me that many of his patients feel that the therapy starts the minute they walk into their reception area, as they are greeted with a friendly smile and a person willing to listen.
I have to admit, I myself have very seldom thought about how someone entering these gates for the first time must be feeling. I was forced to think about this when I received a letter from one of our receptionists, who has just started working here. In the letter, she explains this environment from her perspective.
“I was called for a computer assessment/interview and I was excited about the opportunity. I went to Vista Clinic’s website, and as I read through the website I discovered that Vista Clinic is a psychiatric hospital. When I applied, I did not check the website properly, so I then questioned what kind of environment it is. Do they have mad people who might harm me? Maybe it is like a crazy house? We’ll see…
I came and my fears were laid to rest. The interviews were great and inspiring. I learned things about myself that I can apply in my job. A relationship was sparked. Image is very important in life – how we perceive things or how we judge people. Vista lives out their motto of Reaching, Caring and Healing. I have experienced what it is to care, through colleagues who asked me if they can relieve me so I could go and have breakfast, to the cleaner who made me coffee when I was working at the main reception. I saw care in how patients were treated by nurses, doctors, etc. When a patient who was discharged would come for their follow up appointment, they would give a smile and a hug to a nurse who helped her when she was admitted. That soft greeting from the doctors who ask how I am; it all just touches me.
Caring for each other is important for the soul and your wellbeing, because you feel important. Self-image is boosted and it strengthens relationships. The caregiver also feels good inside, acknowledging that it is better to honour others above themselves. Caring is listening, considering one’s feelings and just asking ‘how can I help?’.
Let us continue to care.”
Thank you to the people who work on the frontlines.