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One-of-a-kind unit excels at treating psych patients

When a Kaiser Permanente patient was recently admitted to the Medical Psychiatric Unit (MPU) at the Fremont Medical Center she was unable to care for herself or her family due to severe anxiety, and unproductive thoughts, and was physically declining because she wasn’t eating or drinking. This patient is just one example of the unique needs being met at the Fremont MPU.

The one-of-a-kind, 18 bed unit, which opened in 2019, provides treatment for patients who have an underlying medical condition along with an acute psychological disorder, eating disorder, substance abuse challenge or other mental health diagnosis.

“That’s what makes our team unique — we have the skills and ability to provide care for both our patients’ medical and psychological needs,” said Brandon Holt, BSN, RN, Assistant Nurse Manager.

Nurses in this unit are required to have at least six months experience in medical-surgical-telemetry and two years inpatient acute psychiatric care. Finding nurses with this specific training can be difficult according to Rajwinder Dhillon, MSN, RN, Nurse Manager. Nurses with either experience can be hired to training positions and then go through a specialized program with Kaiser Permanente to gain the required experience to join the unit. Additionally, all nurses on the unit go through conflict management and non-escalation training.

Staff nurse II Stanley Lal, BSN, RN, shared that working here isn’t something everyone can do, but it’s important, rewarding work. “Our patients are unable to care for themselves due to their unique combination of physical and mental conditions. We become a familiar face and can guide them back to health and self-sufficiency.”

The team of nurses spend a lot of one-on-one time during supervised meal and snack times, while passing medication, or when a patient requires more attention, and they work hard to build a rapport and trust with the patients in their care.

“The positive care experience scores for our unit speaks volumes about the care our nurses and our interdisciplinary teams provide,” added Holt.

And it’s not just the care scores that stand out for this team. The unit, which faces patient safety challenges and risks associated with no call light system and the effects of anti-psychotic medication, performs well above average on patient safety benchmarks.

“Our excellent patient safety scores further demonstrate how strong the entire MPU team is and how hard we work to provide safe, extraordinary care to our patients,” said Dhillon.

“This is a tough population to care for, but we can look back on cases like this one fondly, knowing we have provided the best care to get our patient back to baseline and safely discharged home,” added Dhillon.

“As one of the very few inpatient Medical Psychiatric Units in our Northern California communities, the nurses and staff in the MPU truly live out Kaiser Permanente’s mission to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve,” said Fremont’s Chief Nurse Executive/Chief Operating Officer, Christopher Neilson, MHA, BSN, RN, NE-BC. “They treat their patients with great skill, expertise and, importantly, compassion and grace.”

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