We sat down with Maya, Director of Strategy and Operations, Karla, a Mental Health Social Worker and Rosie, a Clinical Nurse Educator from Epworth Clinic to talk about what it’s like in a day of an in-patient.

What’s the difference between being an in-patient and being an out-patient?

Maya: Being an in-patient is when things are really unravelling for you. It might be a time when you really need some extra support, and the best place for that to happen is in an in-patient ward. So that’s when you come with us and you might do an overnight stay or for a different range of time depending on what’s going on for you. Whereas some of our out-patient things are a bit different. Out-patients are day programs, primarily, and that’s when you might come in once a week for a twelve week course. A lot of people have heard about things such as cognitive behavioural therapy or mindfulness, so you’ll come in for a few hours every week to do those things, but when you’re not with us you’re probably at home doing all the normal things you probably do, such as going to work, looking after your family, socialising. So, which one is better for you depends on what’s going on for you.

What does a normal day look like when you come into Epworth as an in-patient?

Karla: It’s pretty simple, actually. We run therapy sessions that run for seven days. The goal around your stay with Epworth is that you attend the sessions that we offer here as part of your recovery. We’re very recovery oriented and goal focused. The sessions range from very practical groups to very therapeutic intervention-type groups. There’s opportunity to mingle with other patients and form connections with them as well. We’ve also got a number of facilities that you can use here. So it’s all pretty standard, with therapy being the main goal that we drive people to participate in.

If I’m coming in, who is it throughout my day that I’m going to be seeing?

It really does depend on individual cases but, in general, you are primarily taken care of by the psychiatrists. You’ll also have a team of psychiatric nurses who are heavily involved in your stay and in your care. There’s a number of allied health team members that are comprised of social workers, OT’s, psychologists, all of which at some point will be involved with your care too.

We also do run a therapy session called pet therapy, and that’s exactly what it is. We bring in Jasper, who’s an adorable black Russian terrier who comes in once a week and it’s a really casual setting where you just get to interact with him, play with him, and have some one-on-one time with him. It’s laid back and quite nice just to sit and chill with a really gorgeous dog.

You mentioned that there are different kinds of therapies. What might it look like if I come to a group?

Karla: For example, we run both really practical groups and your more cognitive behavioural type therapy groups. These range from doing things like art and life skills. Sessions, for example, around teaching you how to budget, how to do goal setting. We also do other groups which involve talking about emotions and the emotional aspects of your recovery.

If I come to a group when I’m here am I going to do something which relates to a relapse prevention plan or discharge plan?

Karla: Absolutely. We absolutely run discharge planning groups every week to ensure you are headed towards a direction that’s going to facilitate a really smooth transition from hospital to home. It’s very practical based, we look at what goals we want you guys to be focusing on in terms of your recovery and look at anything that awaits you from when you are discharged from hospital.

Am I going to be spending time with other patients? Do I have to spend time with them? How does it work?

Karla: Absolutely, in a therapy-type setting, which is what we encourage all of our patients to work towards whilst they’re here. We encourage every patient to take an active part in their own recovery, where you will be spending time with other patients. There’s also opportunity to be with other patients in facilities like the lounges we have around the hospital outside of group therapy sessions. That’s more up to the patient and is dependent on how active they want to be with other patients, but we definitely encourage you to connect with one another whilst you’re in here.

What does my actual space look like when I come in here?

Rosie: We’re very lucky in that here at Epworth Clinic we pretty much have a brand new facility. All of our rooms are single rooms with an en-suite. You have your own private TV and wireless internet if you want to bring in and watch your own Netflix. You’ve absolutely got an environment to be able to go back to in your own room and have that space.

How does it work with meals?

Rosie: Throughout the day there are scheduled times when the kitchen and dining areas are open and during those times patients make their way down to the dining room for meals. Between those times there is fruit and snacks available, there’s also a vending machine available as well. If you do get hungry between times the nursing staff can facilitate extra food.

In terms of what the food is actually like, we do have fresh fruit and cakes if it’s between those meal times. Usually there is a hot option for food, with a vegetarian option, we can also cater to more specific dietary needs as well if you just let us know when you get here. There is also a cold option with sandwiches and salads. It’s standard for all meals to have both options available.

In most hospitals your meal gets brought to you in your room and you eat by yourself. Is it purposeful that we have to eat altogether?

Rosie: It’s important to be able to socialise with other patients while you’re here. If you do find yourself staying in your room then it can be quite isolating. It’s good to be able to get up and go and do something that you can structure your day around, such as meal times. When meal times aren’t on you’d be attending groups and it’s quite structured in that way. It helps people to be able to develop a routine and get people back on their feet, often after a period that has been quite chaotic.

What are some of the other facilities that are available on site?

Karla: We offer a communal lounge, where you can play board games or read books. There’s other areas where we offer a communal TV and where you can watch some of the DVDs we offer here. It’s just a space where we encourage interaction with one another. We also have the dining room, as Rosie said, where we offer meals. We also offer laundry services, so you can do your own laundry here.

What are some of the items that I can and should bring in with me?

Make sure you bring in what you would normally if you were going away for any period of time. Bring some clothes, bring in appropriate footwear. You can bring your laptop or iPad to connect with the WiFi. If you need any medications you should bring those in with you. You can speak with intake if you are unsure whether there’s something that you should or shouldn’t bring in. Often, people try and make their rooms a little bit more like home. If you have a doona or a blanket or photos from home, for example, then you’re absolutely more than welcome to bring those in.

What should I do with any medication that I do bring in?

Rosie: When you get here you’ll be met by a nurse who will show you to your room and you’ll have a talk about what’s going to happen that day for you. That’s when you’ll give them your medications and anything else that we might need to support you while you’re here.

What about visitors?

Rosie: You absolutely can have visitors come in. We try and tailor that to what will best meet your needs. The group program is very important to attend in order to meet the goals of your recovery, so we try and work it around attending groups. Absolutely, people can come and visit. It’s best to let us know what’s happening and we’ll work with you depending on what your needs are.

Can I go out on leave from the hospital?

Rosie: Everyone is here for a different reason. What we want for you, and what you want for yourself, is ultimately to be safe. If we feel, and if you feel that leaving is something that you’d like to do that will help your recovery and it’s safe to do so, then absolutely. That will be decided between you and the team and the psychiatrist here.

When you get here the plan will be made as to what that will look like for you. You’ll find out whether it’s okay for you to go out by yourself (or accompanied). Absolutely anytime you want to leave the ward speak to the nurses so that we know.

We’re pretty clear here at Epworth Clinic that your mental health and well-being is a whole picture in a holistic model. What is your MOVE program?

Karla: We run a MOVE group and that’s run by different allied health team members. It’s the group that connects mind and body. It’s run by dietitians, social workers, OT’s, we utilise the gym that’s on the ward and basically try and get you out of the common space and get you to be a bit more active. We want to try and really emphasise the importance of physical health as well as mental health.

Maya: One of the people who runs that (group) for us is an exercise physiologist. She will work with you with your goals around exercise and then how to implement that into the community.

Karla: Just like how our dietitians are the primary team members that work with you around goals for eating and lifestyle, exercise physiologists do much the same in terms of exercise.

How long am I going to be in for?

Maya: That’s a really hard question. It’s like asking how long is a piece of string. What we know is everyone’s experience is really different, and some people might only come to us for a brief period where it’s, for example, more crisis driven, and they just need a bit of support for a shorter period. Whereas for some people, where things are really going not as well for them, they need a much longer period with us. That’s something we really encourage you to talk with your treating psychiatrist about and/or your GP. The more engaged you are in your care, you know, attending groups and undertaking all those protective factors then those are the things that are going to ultimately influence some of that. The hospital is here ultimately to support you when you need it, but life is where we want you to be. We want you to be in the community and doing all those things. So we’re hopeful to work with people to always make sure we get a good balance between both of those.

17 July 2019