PhD, the big man on the psych unit’s eighth floor, puffed on his pipe while listening to the dialogue of the broken, misfits, psychotics, schizophrenics, and bipolar patients. Many were beaten at birth, both physically and emotionally. In this land of serpents, he felt like a god. He’d select patients one by one for ECT, electroconvulsive therapy, with electrodes attached to their heads and a mouthpiece in place. They were shocked with a surge of electricity, causing a grand mal seizure. The patients filed out one by one, looking like zombies, with bulging eyes and no memory of the present, but knowing the past. They’d stumble back to their rooms, in the 1970s psychiatric unit with murderers, rapists, pedophiles, victims of domestic violence, homeless people, and others with no name.
After two years of transitioning from LPN to RN, there seemed to be no cure. The patients filed in and out of the open door, revolving without a cure. One pill made them happy, while another made them small. But the pills prescribed by the doctor did nothing at all.
After 34 years of working in ICU nursing, I decided to try psych again before retirement. But nothing had changed. Patients with titles like rapist, murderer, and kidnapper still filled the unit with violence. I was assaulted twice, randomly and unprovoked, and two CT scans later, realized there was no cure. No pill could alter them in the right direction, no algorithm.
ECT changed over time. It was now done with anesthesia and an anesthetist, along with Valium IVP and a petite mal seizure. Patients were wheeled back to their units by wheelchair after a period of recovery in the recovery room. Still, they didn’t remember the present but knew the past.
I left the psychiatric unit for good this time, feeling no hope for this population that may have had a chance at birth but were born defeated. PhD sat behind his mahogany desk, puffing on his pipe, with all the answers as he manipulated his existence on his throne. Female nurses bowed down to him in adoration, while male techs walked by without eye contact. He was feared as the god of the psychiatric unit with all the answers, but in reality, he had none.