I attended fieldwork today at a hospital. The only area I was hoping not to be put into was mental health. Not because it’s an area I dislike or am afraid of. Rather, I already know what occupational therapy involves in mental health. Guess where I ended up? Yep, mental health.
It was my fault really. The five of us OT students were asked if we had an interest in mental health. I piped up and said yes, not realising it’s because she wanted to put one of us with that area. I then tried to subtly withdraw my interest…which was not very professional of me… 😐 Made up for it later though!
So the OT and I walked down to the mental health unit. “You’re not worried or anything are you?” she asked me. I assured her I wasn’t. Because today was totally my first time walking into a mental health unit.
I was shown parts of the ward. Wasn’t actually allowed to enter the High Dependency Unit and open ward and only got a brief glimpse of the mental health rehabilitation unit. Time was also spent explaining to me about the ward and mental health. I let her know after a bit that I’m not a total novice, I do volunteer for two mental health organisations. “What made you interested in volunteering?” she asked me. Yes. Good question.
The OT was planning to conduct an interview/assessment with one of the outpatients who’d been discharged and have me sit in so that I could observe. Which was all well and good…except the client didn’t show up! So then more time was spent with her talking about what she does as a mental health OT and me asking questions.
She remarked that when she first met me, it seemed as though I was pushed into coming to mental health and that some people are a bit worried/afraid of this area. Oops. Guess my attempt to withdraw was not so subtle after all. Only because I want to experience another area of OT though, and we only get one day in a hospital this semester. It’s not because I’m uninterested, I swear! I think I managed to redeem myself though when I demonstrated that I am keen in this area and somewhat knowledgeable about it…I hope so anyway.
I was disappointed though when I heard the experiences of others who had gone to other areas of the hospital. One had observed a client receiving hand therapy. One had gone with an OT to do a home visit. Another was in the Emergency Department where they actually worked with a couple of clients. The client I was supposed to meet and observe was a no show.
It felt somewhat weird being in the mental health unit. Especially as a student, someone who’s assumed to be just a student and not a mental health consumer who’s been an inpatient before. I have to pretend I’m not one of the people she’s talking about when she mentions patients that are at risk of self harm or suicide, that abscond from hospital, that have depression and social anxiety. There’s a part of me who wants to be the professional and move forward. Yet there’s also a part of me that does get tempted to go back, to just be a patient, be self destructive, prove that I’m sick. Just have to push that part of me back.