Franciscan St. Margaret

Name of Hospital: Franciscan St. Margaret

City, State/Province, Country: Dyer, IN, USA

Number of Stars: 5

Comment: I was very nervous going into the adolescent behavioral unit(my first time being hospitalized), but it was a very good experience and most of the staff were very sympathetic and considerate of my feelings. When I was first brought up to the locked unit, there was a lot of paperwork to fill out, as well as a comprehensive mental health survey. Once the paperwork that I had to fill out was finished, I waited in a common room while the the admitting nurse talked with my mom. A very nice nurse came by and asked me if I needed anything. After that, I had a medical/mental history interview with one of the nurses on duty, and discussed past treatment and medication. Then came the “strip search”, which, for being what it is, was very respectful. One nurse held up a large sheet for me to strip behind as another nurse checked my clothes for contraband, and then a quick squat-and-cough. Since the clothes that I brought to wear while I was there didn’t meet standards, I was given two hospital gowns to wear until my parents could bring loose, stringless pajama bottoms. Then, I was roomed, slept through the night, and when I woke up, I had to give blood and urine.

The unit itself was actually fairly small. It’s a 20-bed unit, two to a room by gender. The long, main hallway has all the bedrooms, and the main room, group room, and smaller conference rooms are all off of that as well, leading up to the nurses’ station right by the exit to the rest of the hospital. Past the nurses’ station, there’s your stereotypical “padded room”, but it was only used twice while I was there, and voluntarily. The room is empty except for a camera in the corner and a stress ball, and patients used it to cool down if they were getting very angry or anxious. The main room, right before the nurse’s station, is where we spent most of our day. It’s a multifunction eating/crafts/group/rec room, with several tables and a whiteboard. There were 4 chairs to a table, but only three people per table max so it’s easier to monitor everyone. The room across the hall is the group/rec/visiting room, which is just chairs, a whiteboard, and a TV. Your day in the unit starts with breakfast, then the “meeting” where rules are gone over, new people are introduced, daily goals are said, and other announcements like discharges, behavior levels(which are irrelevant unless you misbehave), and caf(getting cafeteria food instead of the regular meals).

Then, there’s a bit of downtime to socialize with your table members until therapy. I don’t remember the precise order of therapy groups, but there’s occupational/recreational, group, and BHA, which is more direct, clinical therapy regarding emotions, goal-setting, and the like. Lunch is about noon, then there’s more therapy until 4 PM, when you’re given an hour and a half of down-time to work on your goal, shower, do laundry, do puzzles, or sleep. Then dinner, then visiting(the two combine if your parents bring you food), then goals group, where we go over our goals for the day. After that, snacktime, setting your goal for the next day, and off to bed.

Group therapy is, by far, the least uncomfortable therapy in the unit. The therapists that run group are very good at making it feel like a normal conversation, and while you’ll be hesitant to speak at first, you’ll soon be pouring your heart out to a bunch of crazy teenagers. OT/RT seems like it would be more enjoyable, some of the activities seem childish, or not very constructive, and ones that require a lot of creative thought can be difficult. The therapist that ran OT/RT catered the activities to the youngest on the unit, who was twelve, so for the older patients they were kind of silly. BHA(I think it was called?) is the most plain, hands-on therapeutic activity, which focused on self-image, goals, recognizing symptoms, etc. Sometimes it was difficult to complete just because it was emotionally exhausting.

At some point during the day, every day, you will see the psychiatrist. The on-unit psychiatrist in genuinely the best psychiatrist I’ve worked with- he makes an effort to really listen to you, is more focused on your recovery than just getting you out of the hospital, and is just a friendly, easy to talk to person.

In terms of recreation, things were pretty sparse. When we had downtime after meals or group, we would play Pictionary or “Save Sally”- basically Hangman, but without a noose for obvious reasons. However, on Friday, Saturday, and I think Sunday night, we got to watch non-therapeutic movies, have chips and pop, and relax. There was a pretty decent selection of movies, as well- I remember watching Jumanji, Rise of the Guardians, and Bolt, but there might have been more, as you can go to bed early if you want. The one big thing I didn’t like about the unit was that there wasn’t any music- you couldn’t sing or hum, there was no radio, and you couldn’t have MP3 players. As a very musical person, this was distressing for me.

The food wasn’t that good. The daily meals were low-grade school cafeteria food- edible, but not very tasty. However, as long as you were well-behaved, you got hospital cafeteria food every three days, and could choose from pizza, Bosco sticks, fried chicken, and a hamburger, along with various sides(Hint: get the Bosco sticks, you get pudding with it!). Your parents could also bring you snacks to be eaten with meals or at other designated times, such as chips, candy, and snack cakes. No pop was allowed.

The staff treated pretty much every patient the same way, regardless of race, income, or gender. However, the one transgender patient there was consistently misgendered and deadnamed by staff. The rest of the patients struggled, but made an effort to call him “he” and his proper name, even though he was grouped for activities with the girls- boys and girls on the unit have to maintain distance from each other to discourage inappropriate behavior. The staff were more accepting of gay-ness than transgender-ness, and when relationships came up in goal-setting or therapy, they wouldn’t make much of a fuss over someone having same-gender relationships. In all, it was a very constructive therapeutic experience; the unit is well-maintained and the staff are genuinely concerned about your well-being.

Type of program (i.e. day program, inpatient): Inpatient; PHP and IOP also

Any other identities/marginalizations i.e. race/gender/sexuality that could have influenced your stay?: I’m a lesbian; but the issue of romance rarely came up.

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