Editor’s Note: KidsPeace is a clinical training site for DeSales University’s Physician Assistant and Nurse Practitioner degree programs; its medical staff serves as clinical faculty for these health-related programs, guiding and mentoring students in actual training “in the field.” We asked new graduate Kaley Miller for her thoughts on this clinical educational experience:
Author and businessman Tony Robbins has stated, “to effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way that we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” It was during my rotation through the inpatient adolescent psychiatric unit at KidsPeace that I realized the vast importance of communication in practicing medicine — especially in psychiatry. Unlike other medical specialties, psychiatry requires that you break away from reliance upon objective data like vital signs, lab values, and imaging results, and instead focus on the individual and his or her feelings, experiences, and perception of the world.
At the start of my rotation, I was apprehensive that I would be unable to relate to the adolescents, as many have been through difficult or emotionally challenging experiences. However, by understanding how each person’s experiences shape his or her perception of the world, I realized that I could relate to these teens and better understand their situations in order to initiate a plan of care. I enjoyed daily rounding on patients and found a new appreciation for having time to converse with patients and assess their progress. Through my experiences at KidsPeace, I not only became more proficient in the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric illnesses, but I also learned to be a better listener, a skill that is too often undervalued in medicine today.
Furthermore, my experiences at KidsPeace emphasized the importance of teamwork in the comprehensive care of patients in an inpatient psychiatric setting. From daily rounding to formulating and adjusting care plans, the cooperation of nurses, aides, social workers, and medical providers was essential in providing the greatest care to each patient. With each member of the team performing his or her distinct role, the team was efficiently able to create an atmosphere in which patients felt comfortable, safe, and open in discussing any personal concerns.
I learned and practiced numerous skills during my rotation at KidsPeace that have made me a better overall clinician, and I was able to utilize these skills in the practice of medicine in all specialties. I was able to more effectively relate to and interact with my patients by understanding that it is the personal experiences of each individual that shapes his or her perception of the world. I began to better appreciate the differences that make all people unique, and I was truly grateful for the rewarding opportunity I was given to help make a difference in the lives of the adolescents who I worked with.
To incoming students: I would encourage you to have an open mind concerning the psychiatric field, and to take advantage of the opportunity of rotating in adolescent psychiatry to become a better listener, team member, and communicator. Psychiatry requires you to develop an understanding of the patients’ experiences and relate to them in a non-judgmental manner, rather than focusing primarily on objective data, as is essential to the practice of many other medical specialties. While it is important to learn as much clinical knowledge as possible concerning psychiatric diagnoses and pharmacotherapeutics while on rotation, this experience provides a perspective on medicine that cannot be acquired while sitting in a classroom.