Psychiatric Nursing: The Seemingly Unreachable Patient

By Jennifer Rodgers for AJN.

Illustration by Jennifer Rodgers for AJN

In many fields, we must keep doing the same thing over and over without any apparent results. Nurses, for example, may find that their efforts to make a patient safe, to reach a patient, to ease a patient’s suffering have little visible effect. This is just part of the work, but some patients will inevitably pose a greater personal challenge than others.

Five Words,” the Reflections essay in the May issue of AJN, written by former psychiatric nurse Tania Renee Zayid, is about one of those patients and the feelings of hope and disappointment his nurse experiences in his presence. In it, she writes: 

The greatest challenge in psychiatric nursing is connecting with a patient on a personal level. It is sometimes difficult to foster a connection that extends beyond the medications and mental illness. For several years I cared for a patient who was diagnosed with severe depression. He would return to the hospital often after stopping his medication. He would never make eye contact, get out of bed, or speak other than to mumble ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to questions.

Five Words” centers around two small incidents in the nurse’s care of this patient. It’s an engaging essay, but it’s not a story of triumphs and sudden revelations or miraculous solutions. Sometimes, the author seems to be suggesting, the value in what we do is simply in doing it with the best of intentions, the sincerest effort. The essay is free; click the link above to read it.

About the Author:

Senior editor/social media strategy, American Journal of Nursing, and editor of AJN Off the Charts.

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