A “Mental Health” Internship – Challenging, Unique, Fulfilling

This is a guest blog post, written by Saint Mary-of-the-Woods student, Shandi Gerkin, who interned with IU Health Bloomington Hospital Behavioral Health Unit.

For many of you, a behavior health clinic is not something with which you are familiar, so first, let me share my perspective on my internship environment. The IU Health Bloomington Hospital Behavioral Health Unit is an acute care facility that services Central and Southern Indiana.  The Behavioral Health Unit provides acute care to individuals who are experiencing crisis or extreme stress in their daily lives and who need a positive healing environment in which to recover their own stability.  The Access Center of the Behavioral Health Unit addresses calls for admission made to the unit.  The Access Counselors provide an initial assessment of the patient’s problem in order to identify the type of help that is needed.  When a patient requires acute inpatient care, they may be admitted into the Behavioral Health Unit. 

The Behavior Health Unit serves patients who may be a danger to him or herself or may be suffering difficulties from depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse problems, or schizophrenia.  After admission, the staff of doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists, recreational and clinical therapists, and technicians provide the individual with caring and innovative treatment.  Individualized treatment plans, discharge plans, and follow up care plans are developed for each admitted patient.  The staff not only works with the patient but works with families and outside care facilities to ensure that care for the patient and their well-being extends well beyond their stay in the hospital. 

Now — all this may sound like “important stuff,” and that’s because it is! But where does an intern fit in during this process? On a daily basis, I was exposed to multidisciplinary team rounds where doctors, therapists, and nurses met, reviewed, and discussed treatment plans and the progress of the patients.  I also observed and became involved in group therapy sessions and recreational therapy sessions with patients and participated in the completion of group notes.  Group notes assess the participation, functioning, mental state, and appearance of the patient during group sessions.   In addition, I was exposed to the process of evaluation of patients through bio/psycho/social assessments.  Upon admission, each patient is given a bio/psycho/social assessment to discover what their presenting problem is, what their medical and psychiatric history is, and what their social supports are so that their individualized care plan can be built around that information. 

I was also exposed to discharge planning and follow up care planning.  When it comes time for a patient to be discharged, they are provided with a list of triggers and support systems that are compiled by both the patient and his or her therapist.  The list of triggers and supports is provided so that the patient might recognize the signs of a crisis in the future and seek help from their outside support systems before needing to be placed in the hospital.  The patient also leaves the hospital with resources for follow up care.  The hospital works with outside facilities to have appointments for outside care already set up when they leave.  This ensures that the patient can maintain their stability even after discharge. 

By observing the hospital leaders and taking part in a patient’s progress, it further reinforced my choice to seek a career in the community mental health field.  My exposure to multiple areas of the mental health field and mental health issues has augmented my previous mental health studies and been a great learning experience for me.  While the fast-paced, sometimes intimidating, tasks on the unit can be challenging, the work and its successful results are very fulfilling.  The exposure to so many facets of mental health is a unique gift to an intern.  It was an honor for me to work with such a dedicated and caring staff and I will forever be grateful for the experience I had at the IU Health Bloomington Hospital Behavioral Health Unit.

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