Inpatient Psychiatric Admissions: A day in the life

Let’s talk about a typical day on the average inpatient psychiatric unit in this, our third and final article in the series. I think you’ll find the information interesting and helpful.

As I said in the first two pieces in the series – this information is so very important to each of us, as well as our family members and friends. Anyone enduring depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder may face a psychiatric admission; so let’s set the record straight on the experience. Here are links to article one and article two.

The first formal activity of the day on a typical adult psychiatric unit is breakfast. Some hospitals even allow patients to go as a group to the cafeteria for meals. Eating together is encouraged, but if you want to eat in your room, it’s generally not a problem.

I might add, you can get up and get ready for your day at most any time. Most units have a day room where you can hang-out. Many have a TV, books and mags, beverages, and snacks.

Vitals are taken as you emerge from your room, and meds dispensed. Speaking of meds, no one can force you to take them.

Most psychiatric units have two group activities in the morning. They could be exercise/relaxation, spirituality, expressive therapy, and more. You’re not required to attend group; however, it’s my opinion it would be foolish not to.

All sorts of stuff is going on in the background throughout the morning. Some of the goings-on may include time with your assigned physician, psychiatrist, and counselor. Also included may be a required or requested medical procedure, doing your laundry (washer/dryer on unit), spending time with fellow patients, reading, journaling, and then some.

So then it’s time for lunch – same drill as breakfast. And the afternoon is spent much the same as the morning, including two group activities.

Well, then it’s time for din-din, followed by visiting hours – usually 7-830 p.m. Again, throughout the evening you can spend time doing any number of things in the milieu or your room. Typically, light’s out is at 10 o’clock.

One of the most common questions I field from someone who really doesn’t want to be admitted is, “How long do I have to stay?” Great question, and here’s my usual response…

First of all, signing a “five-day” (discussed in the first article) doesn’t mean you’ll be staying for five days. Naturally, your length of stay will depend upon the reason(s) you were admitted. Perhaps you contemplated suicide or made an attempt. Maybe you were unable to function. Or you may have been admitted for a meds adjustment.

With the exception of an admission due to – say – acute psychotic or manic symptoms, I’ve found a stay of 3-5 days is reasonable to expect. But let me point something out. Let’s say you were admitted on a petition and certificate through the E.R. because whomever assessed you believed you posed a threat to yourself.

In the series’ first article I stated, by law, a psychiatrist must examine you within 24 hours. If you request a discharge, and the psychiatrist finds no reason to hold you, you’re outa’ there!

One final comment. I know a psychiatric admission can be a frightening and traumatic event. And I can fully understand why someone would want to be discharged as soon as possible.

But, whether the admission was voluntary or involuntary, my experience suggests it’s likely indicated. And if that’s the case, there’s work to be done.

So we need to do our best to get the most from the experience; using it as a time of stabilization, reflection, self-work, and healing.

I really enjoyed presenting this three-part series, and believe the information is so valuable to anyone facing an inpatient admission; as well as their family members and friends.

chipur becomes much more valuable when we share our experiences. If you’ve spent time on an inpatient psychiatric unit, or have family members or friends who have,  why not share with us in a comment?

image credit