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Making the ED safe, comfortable for all patients

Behavioral health area provides calm, private space for care

Hospital Emergency Departments (EDs) can be busy and stressful places for patients and families. The noise and bustle can be particularly challenging for behavioral health patients. “We observed that a difficult ED experience had a pronounced negative effect on how well behavioral health patients transitioned to our inpatient unit,” said Carol
Plotkin, LICSW, HHS system director of Behavioral Health.Behavioral-2 photo

Melrose-Wakefield Hospital has created a state-of- the-art private area in its ED for adult behavioral health patients, “a place where they can receive excellent care that is also safe and respectful,” she added.

Behavioral health patients comprise 6-7 percent of the hospital’s ED patients, who are most often seeking treatment for illnesses including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression and co-occurring substance use disorders. As in most Massachusetts hospitals, behavioral health patients often wait several hours before an inpatient bed or appropriate community setting can be found.

To improve the patient experience, behavioral health patients are evaluated and treated in a separate 2,000 squarefoot suite within the ED that includes four private rooms, private bathroom, common room, lockers and a nursing station.

“Patients no longer are seen in bays separated by curtains, where there is little privacy or confidentiality,” said Plotkin. The suite is staffed by a psychiatric nurse on each shift and a licensed social worker on most shifts. The team is supplemented by a consulting inpatient psychiatrist, the attending ED physician and security personnel.

“This arrangement is becoming more common, but it is still not standard. Our ED area has been widely praised by others,” said Plotkin. “It requires the commitment of the organization to behavioral health and to making sure these patients receive the safe, specialized care they need and deserve.”

 

 

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