It would be great if you refrained from judging your patients instead of giving them the feeling that you are judging them? Your job is to make your patient feel as safe and comfortable as possible and I am aware of the fact that this is not easy.
If you come on time for appointments in the hospital, it will show them that they do matter. It’s not as if you have to be called to the operating theater for emergency surgery.
It would be most helpful to take their phone calls or their parents’ calls when they are in trouble. In the hospital, I have seen how an orderly creeps up from behind and delivers a shot in the patient’s butt if the individual causes trouble. But what are we parents supposed to do at home? So we call the hospital for advice and it is imperative that someone picks up the phone at the other end.
Being in possession of a good sense of humor would be most useful too.
I know that at medical school psychiatrists are taught to keep their distance. Well, it does not work for the patient or for their parents. It makes your patient feel alone when he/she needs to be shown that you are human after all. Can you imagine what it must feel like to lose your mind? I can’t.
If you have had a row with one of your children or your wife/partner, whatever; please don’t bring your irritation to the hospital. Your bad mood or personal issues should never influence your professional attitude. Easier said than done? Yes, I know that you are only human but because you chose this profession, it is par for the course.
If your patient is suicidal, I know that you give that person support, but as it is not that unusual an occurrence for you, it is easy to lack empathy when imparting this kind of information to the family. A parent goes through hell when their child has a mental illness and they do need some TLC.
It would be so helpful to mingle with your patients to create a safe and friendly environment while on duty at the hospital. Maybe sit with them and chat in a social context? Not for long, but it could change the atmosphere.
Please remember to inform your patient and his parents about any side effects that he/she might experience caused by taking medication. If your patient asks about the sexual side effects of the medication, please do not avoid the subject.
It might be a good idea to suggest that your patient get good dental care, hand out a pamphlet with the relevant information. The importance of exercise should be explained to him as well as the advantages of decreased smoking.
How about fighting the stigma of mental illness at every given opportunity? Most parents don’t have the emotional energy to do that.
And last, but not least, help your patient hang on to some hope. Nobody can live without hope.
To all psychiatrists who receive patients on a private basis. Try not to glance at your clock so often please.