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Trial and Error: Observe and listen

Observe and listen

During the first day of my psychiatry internship an alarm went off. It was from one of the rooms on the closed psychiatric ward. Apparently, one of the patients was physically and verbally aggressive towards other patients and also to one of the nurses. It was decided to transfer the patient to one of the isolation rooms because he was refused to calm down and go back to his room to take his medication. I joined the group of nurses that were going to guide the patient to the isolation room. I asked if I could be of assistance, but as an intern there are moments where there is nothing one can do and this was one of them. Ultimately they managed to bring him to the isolation room, where he again refused to take his medication. Subsequently, I witnessed how the was given medication against his will; all I could do was not to interfere.

A few days the patient had calmed and was cooperative and was allowed to leave the isolation room. Not long after that, he approached me. He recognized me and told me that he noted that all the doctors where busy, yet he wondered whether I had time to talk. The following days we sat down to talk every time he was feeling upset. During one of our conversations he told me he felt relieved that someone took the time to listen to his frustrations. As an intern you always want to do as much as you can. It may appear that simply observing and listening is not ‘the real thing’. But during this internship I learned that it is a mistake to think this way. Sometimes this is all you can do, but at the same time it is more than enough.

S.W. Hoeffelman & M.U. Schafroth

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