Monday, May 16, 2005

Memories of a Former Psych Tech

I used to work as a psychiatric technician at St. Joseph’s Center for Mental Health in Omaha Nebraska. It was a very difficult job for me emotionally. At that time I wanted to be a brain surgeon and work with Alzheimer’s patients, so I thought the experience of working at a mental health facility while I was in college would increase my chances and help me gain an awareness of the profession. But over the years I grew disheartened by the business side of the mental health profession. Patients would get drugged up and on the day their insurance ran out, they would be “cured.” The psychiatrists/physicians would seldom spend any time with the patients, and thus it was mostly the nurses and psych techs who did the real work. Plus, most of the patients I worked with were children who were either not getting along with their parents or perhaps they were caught with a joint or something. These patients would be housed with some real sociopaths and serious bipolar patients, and they would be scared out of their minds, apologize, and go back home with their parents now aware that mom and dad were playing hardball. They even ran commercials asking parents if their teenagers seemed distant and weren't communicating, and if so they should try the center for mental health. Heck, that seems to define about every teenager I know. I found that people who worked at these places abused drugs pretty bad, and they had some other serious emotional issues. They did great work taking care of others, but not so great with themselves. I met some of my best friends there though. I started remembering all this last Friday when my friend Keith had a birthday party. He works at a similar place here in New Orleans, and many of his friends who met us worked there also. They spoke at great lengths about the patients, and fights they had when patients either tried to escape or get combative. I started remembering how I used to work out all the time with weights while I worked there. Plus whenever I would meet a new patient I would size them up thinking about who would win in a fight. Some psych techs would provoke patients into fighting. I never personally did this, but I saw it happen frequently. In any case, I am much happier teaching. If I still worked at the psych hospital I would be a buff muscled drug abuser dependant on others for happiness. Instead, I am a fat beer addicted glasses wearing grader of crappy papers. But I don’t have to tackle people or listen to stories about parents molesting their kids and I get to talk about things I love like critical thinking and Amos.


Anonymous Yajaira said...

Your life stories are entertaining. Sorry to read about Kalypso's accident. Pobrecita la chiquita!

12:55 AM  
Blogger paul said...

Wow! what you say really hits home. I am myself a psych tech in California. It is indeed a disturbing thing how the health care system treats the mentally ill (especially in the absence of adequate funding from insurance companies.) Thank you for blogging.

4:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So awesome to read the truth!!!
As a former patient (at that facility!)with an eating disorder.
Belongings that the staff kept for "safekeeping" were stolen, no one knew why. The baiting was beyond belief. Tell a teen who already hates themself how horrid they are, and hope they get better?
I am now an R.N., with a degree in counseling as well. Worked in a rehab with adolescents, and we had a blast!

4:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I appreciated your remarks about the field. I'm a social work major and I work in behavioral health at my local hospital. 10 beds, average census 4 or 5. 1 nurse, 2 psych techs on unit (ideally) at all times. My sense of things so far (two weeks in) is that the nurses are cruel to each other sometimes and the psych techs (all male) try harder to get along than their better paid counterparts above them in the structure. I'm grateful to have ajob in my field while I'm in school, but this isn't what i had wanted to do and at least they've got benefits. I feel like we should be allowed to wear scrubs. We are not, however. The place is rural and well-intended but still fails its basic missions with the best of 'em.

7:42 PM  

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