Halfway through my psychiatry residency, I was told to go to a new hospital in San Francisco. “You’re on consult. Meet the resident on the 9th floor at 8 am.”
So I wondered. After 2 weeks working with patients who were involuntarily admitted to the inpatient psychiatry unit, I would be working with a different population. Consult. Meaning my day would be filled with pages where the resident and I would wait for a hospitalist or resident in a different specialty to reach out to us. For depression, for delirium, or to rule out substance-abuse psychosis.
So I went to a new unit. And rather than work with patients who suffered from significant psychiatric illnesses, I worked with a completely different population. Patients who had support networks, who until recently were psychiatrically stable, patients who didn’t face the stigma of having a mental illness.
Most of the patients I saw suffered from an acute stroke, or delirium s/p medical illness. It’s interesting to see how involved psychiatry has to be for many patients. When a patient is no longer able to understand their medical treatment, psychiatry is often advised. When a patient suffers an acute insult, such as a stroke, psych is consulted for depression. They say that many patients who seek psychiatric treatment are those who are chronically ill or just suffered a major illness. It’s a big life adjustment.
So I was fortunate enough to counsel. To listen to patients. To hear their stories, to learn what their lives were like prior, and to help them adjust to a new normal. It’s humbling. It’s brave for the patients. And for them to listen to me, all because I wear a white coat, even though I don’t have the “M.D.” title yet. I am truly honored to be in this work.