SFCJL operates one of California’s few acute geriatric psychiatric hospitals. Only two counties (San Francisco and San Mateo) provide inpatient geropsychiatric care; in nearly half of California’s 58 counties, there is no local access to inpatient psychiatric care at all. Older adults from across California receive care in our acute psychiatric unit (known as our APU).
“Ours is the best example of an interdisciplinary approach that I’ve been a part of,” says Barbara DeLeon, our psychiatric nurse manager.
Barbara has been in the psychiatric nursing field for nearly 30 years, and with SFCJL for almost five. We recently sat down with her to understand what she has learned from the patients she works with everyday.
What is a typical day for you? I usually start by talking through treatment plans for patients who have higher acuity psychiatric or medical needs. Each day, I’ll go around to each patient and ask them how things are going. I see if they have complaints or concerns—even if it’s just a little thing like room temperature, it’s something I want to know about so I can help problem-solve. Then, depending on the day of the week, I will attend the interdisciplinary staff meeting where we discuss each patient in detail so we can all be on the same page.
One of my other responsibilities is to do a referral screening for potential patients before they are admitted. I go over clinical reviews; whether individuals are appropriate referrals for us, and I speak to the referring organizations, family members, and our doctor to coordinate the transfer.
What is the most rewarding part of your job? Just seeing the excellent patient outcomes that the majority of our patients experience after 2-3 weeks of being here. Seeing the symptoms improve dramatically. Also, working with the interdisciplinary team; it’s a great team and everyone wants to be there. They genuinely enjoy working with each other and the patients. They try to support each other as best they can.
What is one thing that the residents/patients at SFCJL taught you? They have taught me that life is short and that relationships are the most important thing. For a lot of our patients with mental health struggles, loneliness is at the root. Our patients often look back upon their lives and reflect on their past relationships. On the physical health side, I’m often reminded of how necessary it is to take good care of yourself while you are younger—be aware of your stress, your overall well-being. Not everything can be controlled, but the choices we make now will contribute to our health in a big way down the road.