Inpatient passes & gowns, and Joslin: Answers to Questions

Pass forms for inpatient going out on pass

        In November 1999, I went out on pass from St. Joseph’s inpatient psychiatric unit.  At home, I crashed and burned.  If I had had my car, I would have driven myself back to the perceived safety of the hospital but I was not allowed to have the keys to my car because I was on inpatient.

        I could have called a taxi but I new the wait could be up to an hour and I could not maintain myself for that length of time.  I could have called the hospital but I didn’t know the telephone number and was too distraught to look it up.

        I took an overdose and lost consciousness.  The next day, according to what I was told, I called 9-1-1, was ambulanced to the Emergency Room, crashed, was transferred to the ICU and put on life support for a month.

        Afterwards, one of the things I advocated for was the patient being sent on pass with the inpatient unit’s phone number.  All I asked was that every patient going out on pass be given a form that said:  “The unit telephone number is _____; your staff person’s name is _________.  If you are in trouble and need help, call us.”  That’s all it would have taken to save my life.

        I remained on inpatient psychiatry for six months after the overdose and the staff did not produce such a form.  About a year later, I heard that they had started using one.  I guess a committee had to develop it.

Inpatient psychiatry and gowns

        All inpatient psychiatric units require you to get up and get dressed in your regular clothes every morning.  Hospital gowns are only used (a) when you’re getting some physical exam or treatment; (b) when you’re getting ECT (shock treatment); (c) when they want to control you.  If you are striped naked and required to wear a hospital gown then you become extremely vulnerable and more concerned about covering your ass than anything else.  You become much more compliant to the will of the staff.

How would you rate Joslin clinic as a psychiatric clinic in America?

        Pretty lousy, considering Joslin Clinics are for the treatment of diabetes, not mental illness.  Dr. Elliott P. Joslin was the first doctor to specialize in diabetes.  He attended Leicester Academy, Yale College, Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, wrote “The Pathology of Diabetes Mellitus,” and died in 1962.

        Diabetes is an insulin problem; insulin is produced by the pancreas; the pancreas is part of the endocrine system.  In Syracuse, SUNY Upstate Medical Center’s outpatient endocrine services are part of their Joslin Diabetes Center.

        After I stopped taking drugs—most especially antidepressants—we discovered that my adrenal glands (which are also part of the endocrine system) were producing abnormally high levels of stress hormones, which can make you crazy.

        One night I ended up in the Upstate Emergency Room being interviewed by a resident who’d been there about a month.  I was reporting on the work-up at the Joslin Clinic when he interrupted to snap, “I don’t want to hear about your rehab experience!”

        I snapped back, “Joslin is your endocrine clinic!”  The resident left my cubicle and sent someone else in to follow me.  When a resident combines arrogance and ignorance, it’s the patient who loses.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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