A Licensed Psychiatric Technician, aka P.T. is a licensed professional advocate who works with patients with traumatic brain injuries, patients with dementia, Alzheimer’s, mentally ill patients and developmentally disabled or aka mentally retarded patients. They also care for dually diagnosed patients that wind up in jail. Dually diagnosed means that their mental illness caused them to break the law. They come to State hospitals because they are so gravely disabled the guards have no idea how to treat them. This is our specialty, although dangerous a rewarding job in that it is so unique in its scope of practice.

Licensure became mandatory in 1969.  Today’s PT works with a team of psychiatrists, social workers, medical Drs, RNs and chaplains. Duties are many and the job isn’t for everyone. You have to be that special kind of person who truly wants to help people no matter how bad they smell or how mentally ill they are. Many are also assaultive which means that Pts being on the front line so to speak have injuries. Some are just banged up knees but many are much more serious.  PTs provide direct hands on when necessary care. Our only line of defense when I was working there was Management of assaultive Behavior but they have a new line of defense called TSI. This means Therapeutic Staff Intervention. The new school of thought is if you have to put them in restraints, you have failed your patient.

Persons desiring this occupation must go through a 2 year program but being the over achiever I have been named I found an 11 month program.  It was accelerated. Oh, Lord, it was hard and if I didn’t already have my AA in psychology, I would have had a harder time.

P.T.s take 576 hours of theory and 954 hours of clinical training which means they go into state hospitals and train with a mentor. I have mentored many over the years and try to mentor with our code of ethics in the back of my mind. This also applies to all 3 semesters. First being medical surgical nursing where they learn how to administer medication both orally and by needle. Giving shots comes second nature because you give a lot of them in your tenure. Medical surgical includes bathing, feeding, learning how to use a nasal gastric tube, gastric feeding tube which goes directly into the stomach and requires surgery to put it there. It also makes them practice bandaging techniques, working directly with Drs., as part of the tem they will be working with once they pass their state boards.

Second semester is working with developmentally disabled folks. They learn how to feed them. Some of the patients are so critical they don’t even know how to swallow. This must be taught as well. Tracheostomy care is another skill in the second semester. They also take 3 semesters of Pharmacology, which is the study of medications and their effects on the body.

In the 3rd semester, there is a lot to learn.  This is where they go into mental hospitals and shadow a Psych Tech. This semester deals with the mentally ill. This is not an easy semester. They have to learn how to do group therapy i.e. groups where they teach the patient to focus on one thing at a time. All the groups in this semester work on getting the patient as sane as possible through use of medication. The groups they have help them to sustain a life outside of the hospital. They learn skills that they can implement in society.

In closing, I would like to show you my readers, our Psych Tech mantra, i.e. our code of ethics. I told my students that if they live by this mantra they won’t ever get into trouble. I tell them to memorize it and make it part of their soul. Here is our code of ethics:

  1. The Psychiatric Technician provides care with respect for human dignity and the uniqueness of the client/patient, regardless of the individual’s social or economic status, personal attributes or the nature or degree of the disability.
  2. The Psychiatric Technician acts to safeguard the client’s right to privacy and dignity.
  3. The Psychiatric Technician acts to protect clients/patients and the public from the incompetent, unethical or illegal practice of any person.
  4. The Psychiatric Technician assumes responsibility and accountability for individual nursing judgments and actions, and for the quality and extent of services performed.
  5. The Psychiatric Technician maintains professional competency through continuing education.
  6. The Psychiatric Technician respects the findings, views and actions of other disciplines, and uses appropriate channels to express judgment of these matters.
  7. The Psychiatric Technician participates in activities that contribute to the ongoing development of the profession.
  8. The Psychiatric Technician participates in the profession’s efforts to implement and improve the profession’s Standards of Practice.
  9. The Psychiatric Technician participates in the profession’s efforts to establish and maintain conditions of employment conducive to quality psychiatric nursing care.
  10. The Psychiatric Technician participates in the profession’s effort to protect the public from misinformation and misrepresentation and to maintain the integrity of psychiatric nursing care.
  11. The Psychiatric Technician collaborates with members of the health professions and other citizens in promoting community and national efforts to meet the mental health needs of the public.
  12. The Psychiatric Technician maintains readiness to provide appropriate professional services in public emergencies.

Lydia Greico Retired P.T.

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