This week, as the latest delightful assignment in my term of relieving, I am working in the mental health department.
I’m there for 2 weeks.
In order to do any of the genuinely useful tasks as a doctor you have to be trained in and certified in the use of the mental health act (so that you can admit/detain/treat psychotic patients against their will etc). Unfortunately to get trained takes 3-4 days, so they didn’t have time/incentive to do that for me given the short time I’m around.
That fact, combined with the fact that I haven’t dealt with a seriously mentally unwell patient in almost 3 years, and even then it was in med school at a hospital where the mental health unit was spectacularly understaffed, and resultantly dysfunctional, and so we didn’t really get to actually do/learn all that much (general hint here – don’t come to me for treatment if you get schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, because I won’t be of much help to you).
So basically I am wandering around all day doing general medical things for the other doctors who have better things to spend their time on, and trying not to draw too much attention to the fact that I’m not really much use to anyone. I go and see patients, and diligently write down what I see and what they tell me, and generally have no idea what to do about it beyond saying “they seem better/worse than how they were described yesterday”.
That said, I did still feel quite chuffed this afternoon when I managed to get a patient to tell me all about how he was seeing things that weren’t really there, which is not always the easiest thing to do.