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Being admitted to a psychiatric facility for the first time may be daunting. A person may feel powerless and unable to make simple decisions for themselves. Admission guidelines are in place to ensure the safety of everyone involved with the treatment process. Each facility tailors their admission process to the type of patients they serve. For example, a general mental health unit within a hospital setting might seem a little more restrictive due to the range of illnesses and disorders being treated with patients housed together on the same unit. A privately-owned or dedicated mental health facility may have more specific guidelines if they are treating a more specific set of illnesses or diagnoses.
The admission process to an inpatient psychiatric facility begins in the emergency room once the ER doctor (and the patient if voluntary) makes the decision to admit. Patients presenting with psychiatric concerns may undergo a non-invasive safety search for anything that may be used to harm themselves or others. Any items that were brought to the ER are checked for contraband and hazardous materials and are catalogued by the ER staff and kept in a locked area until the person is being transferred. Valuables such as jewelry, cash, credit and debit cards along with tobacco products such as cigarettes, vape pens or chewing tobacco are usually locked in storage along with any other items not allowed on the units for safe keeping and are inventoried by the unit staff and patient before being returned upon discharge. Other items that are generally not allowed are:
- Devices with internet access such as smart phones, iPods, tablets or laptops
- Cell phones or pagers
- Kindles or e-readers
- Drug, alcohol or weapon paraphernalia
- Grooming and hair-styling products such as razors, curling irons, hair dryers, or bobby pins
- Some facilities do not allow clothing or personal items with string or laces
Specialty items such as prescription hygiene items may be kept with secure items and may be accessed with staff supervision. Prescribed medications or hormones may also require new orders that your inpatient psychiatrist can complete for the duration of your stay, even they were brought home.
Once the patient arrives on the unit, the unit staff and nurse may do another non-invasive search and depending on the facility, you may be required to wear hospital scrubs for at least the first 24 hours of your admission. You may also have your vitals signs (blood pressure, temperature) and possibly height and weight. The patient may then move onto the admission assessment with the nurse, sign paperwork and a short unit orientation. If the admission occurs during the business day (typically weekday before 5 PM) they may meet with their inpatient psychiatrist and the rest of their treatment team. Days on a mental health unit may also include structured group programming and activities along with some free time to make phone calls and visitors if permitted.
Each facility is different and rules vary by facility. Always check with the staff of the facility to clarify any questions or concerns you may have pertaining to your admission. For more information on inpatient psychiatric treatment and a list of inpatient facilities, visit Dept of Human Services Hospital Services
Disclaimer: The information presented in this post is strictly for educational purposes. Each hospital and/or psychiatric facility has their own admission criteria and guidelines and may have additional restrictions or requirements not mentioned in the aforementioned post. Please check with any hospital or facility about their specific inpatient admission requirements.