The Riggs Blog
How My Work Makes a Difference - Part 4
Austen Riggs held a blog competition among staff members where we asked them to write about the topic: “How My Work Makes a Difference.” This is the fourth blog in the series written by Cathy Towne, Mental Health Worker.
My work at ARC as a Mental Health Worker in the nursing department at Riggs makes a difference. I was originally hired 14 years ago as the Nursing Secretary and stepped into this role in an unusual way. One evening, when staffing was low, I offered to stay and be an available “body." After working a few shifts, I and others realized I had an affinity for working with patients, so I expressed my wish to remain a Mental Health Worker.
There is no way to work here without learning about life and about yourself. For me, respect for the human spirit and compassion for every individual are what keep me interested and focused. In my role I believe I have to have resilience, be self-aware and non-judgmental toward myself and others. I believe that I should not just show sympathy for patients — I can’t own or judge their experience--but empathize with and learn from it. Patients have taught me that just because I can't see delusions and hallucinations doesn’t mean they are not real to them. They have taught me compassion for other humans who are struggling and in need. They have taught me that being with family is often but not always the safest place to be.
There are techniques we learn for listening and intervening that may help things "click" for a patient. You may do something that helps someone change, that may take them to a new level of self-understanding, with clearer recognition of what they need to work on. An effective therapeutic relationship makes all the difference in our ability to care for an individual. A large part of my work here is being there for patients, maintaining a non-judgmental attitude and empathizing while maintaining professional boundaries. The job can be stressful, but at the same time, the reward of helping someone who is having difficulty in their life and supporting them to “get back on track” is what we are here to do.