Phone Calls, Puppies, & Babies

I don’t mind talking on the phone. That is, of course, as long as the person on the other end actually has something to say. But phone calls have been one of my least favorite parts of this week on Adolescent Psychiatry.

Whenever we have a new patient, the we are supposed to learn everything about the patient that we can. For these new patients, there are three sources of information: 1) the nursing admission note, 2) the patient, and 3) the parent/guardian.

Usually, by the time the patient becomes “ours,” the patient is already situated in the unit. The nursing note has already been done. Our job, then, is to read the nursing note to get a sense of what happened, and then find out what the story is from the patient and their parent/guardian.

The patient/guardian is a phone call away. And these phone calls often take quite a while. I suppose it is expected, though, with situations that often involve seriously disturbing relationships and circumstances. We have to discuss the current situation and the events that led up to the hospitalization. And then we discuss the patient’s history in detail.

But what I find much worse than the phone calls is what I learn from them, and what I learn as I get to know the patient more each day. As the story unfolds, I have to watch myself. I sometimes get so mad and frustrated. I find myself in disbelief at the atrocities that “my” kid has had to endure. There are stories of 7 year olds who get started on drugs and alcohol. Seven year olds! Who gives a kid drugs and alcohol?!? We have to hear about kids who were abused in every way imaginable by people who were supposed to help protect them. We talk to kids who tell us they see and hear things. We have to daily ask them if they are thinking about hurting themselves or other people — because it is a very real issue for many of them.

And I find myself disgusted that it is harder to adopt a puppy than it is for a person to become a parent. It’s ridiculous. And it sucks.