Friday, April 3, 2015

A Day in the Life | State Psychiatric Hospital

Today I am kicking off a "Day in the Life" series on my blog to celebrate OT Month. One of the great things about the field of occupational therapy is the wide range of work settings where you can find OTs adding their distinct value. My goal with this series is to highlight the variety of settings where you can find occupational therapists working. I truly hope you enjoy it!
Occupational therapy has its roots in the field of mental health, and today I am so happy to have Sarah Lyon here to kick off this series and share what a "typical" day was like for her when she worked in a state psychiatric hospital.

Last year I had the awesome privilege of working with adult males recovering from significant incidents related to their severe and persistent mental illness. This was a dream job for me, as it entailed high amounts of creativity and the chance to truly collaborate with patients.

The setting was our state psychiatric hospital. Patients were committed to the hospital for anywhere from a few months to decades.

The work was varied and challenging. My programming team consisted of psychologists, social workers, recreation therapists, and licensed mental health practitioners. We worked under the Recovery Model.

I relied heavily on Tina Champagnes sensory room work, Karen Moores Sensory Connection work, and Dr. John Liptaks Life Skills Workbooks for guiding theory and practical activities.

I worked part-time and everyday was a new adventure, but here is an example of a Thursday:

8:30 Arrive. Greet my OT co-worker, who works primarily with the women. Check email for information on status changes, transfers, discharges, etc.

8:45 Frantically Prep. This typically includes making copies, gathering supplies, checking the room.

8:50 Head to the ward. Check-in with staff, grab my radio, start inviting the men to group.

9:00 Like Skills Group for group-home-bound men. Topics in Life Skills varied from cooking, balancing your checkbook, interview skills, navigating transportation, cleaning, etc. Our goal was always to make the group as hands-on as possible. A typical structure would look like this:          
                        Intro- 5 min
                        Teaching- 10 min
                        Hands-on activity- 20 min
                        Clean-up and debrief- 20 min

10:00Life Skills Group for group-home-bound men II. Here I would run the same group as at 9:00, but no 2 groups were ever the same since each gentleman brought such a unique dynamic to the group.

11:00Life Skills Group for nursing-home-bound men. This group was focused more on social and leisure skills. The men enjoyed cooking for leisure, working on memory books, and collaborating on projects to improve the ward.

12:30 Programming team meeting. Team meetings can be a drag. But this one was a highlight of my week. I worked with an absolutely awesome programming team. It was led by our psychologist, who worked hard to give our program an overall vision and help us process what was and wasn't work for our guys.

1:30Individual sessions. Before working in mental health, I worked in physical rehab, so I would occasionally have an individual on my caseload for issues such as chewing and swallowing, overall strengthening, wheelchair management, etc.

2:00Working Projects. The OT departments two main working projects were the Patient Employment Program and Sensory Room Initiative. These were both passion projects for the other OT and I. We could have spent our whole day on them, but I was grateful to have dedicated time each week built into our job description.

2:30Documentation. The bulk of our documentation was monthly notes. Monthly notes are awesome. I would try to work on these throughout the month, but there was always a little bit of a rush in the days leading up to the deadline.

3:30Life Skills Group with men bound for independent living. The goal of this group was to make it as self-directed as possible. The guys would plan out the groups calendar for the month together. We often spent our time helping prepare whichever man was going to discharge next by making shopping and grocery lists, learning about programming and transportation in the area, and processing through other logistical concerns.

My husbands job took us to a new city a year into this job and I have since switched my focus to blogging about OT at I would love to continue the conversation with you there. You can sign-up for my newsletter here.

I also love dialoguing with other OTs on my Facebook page and on Twitter.

About Sarah:

Sarah received her BA at St. Olaf College and her Masters of Occupational Therapy at New York University.  Her work experience includes: a critical access hospital, an acute trauma hospital, and a state inpatient psychiatric hospital. She is the creator of, where she blogs for OT students and new practitioners. Nebraska is her home, but she currently live in Chicago. 

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