Service Learning Observation of Psychiatric Patients
Patients with normal health problems behave in a different manner as compared to patients with psychiatric problems. It has always fascinated me that psychiatric patients have an ability to look normal as compared to the patients with other health problems despite the fact that they are suffering from what can be in a longer term a fatal mental disease. My interest in psychiatric patients encouraged me to voluntarily work at a local psychiatric hospital to observe these patients and identify their attributes to develop better understanding of how they would react to certain situations. The paper aims to elaborate on my experience of work there and also elaborates on my observation of the psychiatric patients in the observed local hospital.
The Experimental Dimensions of Service Learning
It is human nature to associate certain expectations and develop certain feelings with a certain situation before experiencing it. Similarly, before actually going into the hospital and experiencing the service learning via observation of actual psychiatric patients, I had associated certain expectations and developed certain feelings with the forthcoming experience. I had associated "retarded behavior" with psychiatric patients.
Although retarded behavior is carried out by some of the psychiatric patients but not all of them. Many of them act normal and but still have psychiatric problems. With regards to my service learning experience, I expected to be able to work directly in contact with psychiatric patients. The authorization to work at a psychiatric hospital had automatically led me to develop feelings of sympathy for the psychiatric patients.
Expectations related to site of the organization were not that positive as the common notion towards psychiatric hospitals is not very positive. With respect to environment, colleagues and patients, my expectations were neutral. As I expected the colleagues to be friendly in terms of helping me with dealing with the duties that I was assigned while I expected the patients to be extremely challenging to handle. As far as the environment is concerned I expected an overall friendly but tensed environment as the special attention that psychiatric patients need, requires a friendly environment due to the need of gentle and loving treatment for the patients.
While I was at the psychiatric hospital, I had a mixed set of feelings. As on one hand I saw patients who were severely disturbed mentally, some of them appeared to be normal despite the psychiatric problems they had and on the other hand I saw each patient being treated differently according to the nature and severity of the problem he/she had. My interaction with the patients enhanced my sympathetic feelings for them however, at the same time they made me feel frustrated as some of the patients required to be told the same thing over and over again and some of the patients refused to take whatever advice was given to them. Hence, my feelings associated with the service learning there were a combination of frustration, sympathy and motivation to work to bring a difference in the life of the psychiatric patient.
I performed the service of assistance. I worked as an assistant for a local psychiatrist in the hospital and also had a chance to work with other volunteers for other work tasks. As an assistant, my duties included noting down the meeting minutes in terms of the diseases diagnosis, patient symptoms, any tests prescribed by the psychiatrist, and also additional notes based on my personal observation of the patient while the psychiatrist continues to examine the patient. Part of my duty was to interact with other volunteers if required e.g. If the patient was assigned with some medical tests, I would be responsible for assisting the patient in getting the tests done. This would require my interaction with the volunteers working in the related laboratory or department.
After my visit, I felt more sympathetic towards the psychiatric patients, more than I have ever felt before. The reason for that probably is that I was able to witness the helplessness and innocence of the patient more closely. I also had a feeling that the hospital requires improvement in terms of the facilities provided for the in-ward patients. The staff dealing with psychiatric patients sometimes lost their patience dealing with them. This usually led to anti-social behavior from the patients. Thus, I felt that the hospital's environment needs substantial amount of improvement which can be carried out by providing training for the staff and training for the hospital's management.
The service learning experience was great for me because not only did it enhance my working capabilities, it also enhanced my learning and my understanding of the subject in consideration.
The day ended up well as I was able to accomplish what was assigned to me. I assisted the psychiatrist in three of his patient consultations, I also managed to get the required tests done for a patient. I also had a chance to observe the in-ward patients and interact with them personally. Some of the patients that I interacted with actually seemed happy which not only enhanced the effect of the treatment that they were getting but also enhanced my level of satisfaction.
The Objective Component of Service Learning
Multiple concepts applied to my service learning experience as I was assigned multiple sets of duties that encouraged application of all these concepts. The concepts of that applied to my service learning experience are mentioned below with brief details.
Psychosocial Development: The first concept that I experienced in my service learning was that of psychosocial developed. Working in a psychiatric hospital helped me in developing a better understanding of how psychiatric patients respond to certain things. While observing the clinical patients of the psychiatrist I assisted, I observed psychosocial development of the patient. Although for all of them the development was in its initial stages. The in-ward patients that I observed were also in the process of psycho-social development. It is important to note here that most psychiatric patients depict anti-social behavior, psycho social development helps them to recover from the anti-social behavior. Thus, the psychosocial development was one of the main objectives observed during my time of service learning.
Motivation: The concept of motivation can be applied in multiple ways since my service learning experience involved working as a volunteer and working for the patients along with the hospital staff. With respect of working as a volunteer, the concept of motivation applied to us and the staff. A little improvement in the patient's health increased the level of motivation not only in the permanent staff of the hospital but also in the volunteers. The other aspect of motivations is the aspect via the patient's end. Proper gentle and loving interaction by the staff and volunteers motivated the patient to comply with the advised treatment.
Social Psychology: During my assistance at the clinical consultations of the patients, the concept of social psychology was strongly observed in application. Since the patients are normally used to dealing with the psychiatrist alone, my presence served as an extreme challenge for the patient to open up and answer the questions of the psychiatrist. Hence my presence strongly influenced the feelings, behaviors and thoughts of the psychiatric patients. In-ward patients also depicted the behavior of social psychology due to my presence. However in their case, it was a positive turn-out as my interaction with them led them to take me as their friend due to which they elaborated more on the problems and issues they faced, or are currently facing thus depicting that my presence positively influenced the feelings, behaviors and thoughts of the in-ward psychiatric patients.
Understanding Diversity in Our Society
Diversity exists everywhere, even in the psychiatric hospitals. During my limited time there, I observed cultural diversity majorly in terms of gender, race and physical appearance. There were transsexual patients as well as male and female patients. Also each patient had a different physical appearance, since physical appearance can be affected by a person's race, both these components of diversity are over lapping.
Some of the patients were African-American while some of them were Asian. There were many other races as well. Some patients had a very sophisticated physical appearance while some patients had an extremely disturbed physical appearance.
Again, diversity prevails strongly in our society but emerges in a different way in case of psychiatric hospital. As the psychiatric disease affects the components of diversity strongly. Physical appearance, for example, is affected strongly by the nature and severity of the psychiatric disease. Diseases such as depression will make the physical appearance of the person disturbed and "unhappy," also the person will appear to be lost, i.e. having no or little clue of what's happening or where to go.
Diversity was also present in the hospital staff and the volunteers working in the psychiatric hospitals. People from all religions, ethnicities and races were working in the hospital. The fact that there were Indians, Americans, and Chinese working in the same hospital together is the proof of high level of…