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In general hospitals across the country, the emergency room (ER) can be a frightening place for families with loved ones in psychiatric crisis. Patients are often distraught and family members distressed. Long waits for psychiatric beds in Massachusetts and beyond can compound this anxiety and fear.
Thanks to the renovation and expansion of McLean’s Clinical Evaluation Center (CEC) and Short Term Unit (STU), patients are being evaluated and admitted to the hospital more quickly and efficiently and with more resources than ever before. In 2009, the CEC, where patients are assessed upon arriving at McLean, was relocated to larger, more modern quarters in the Admissions Building. The new space “is very comfortable and attractive,” says Beth Murphy, MD, PhD, medical director of the CEC. “Families can sit together and talk, watch TV, or have a bite to eat. It is much more of a place you would want to wait during a psychiatric crisis.”
Patient evaluations and physical examinations now take place in rooms spacious enough for family members to be involved. Quiet waiting areas help patients stay calm. New computers and larger work stations make it easier for staff to do their jobs.
In conjunction with these physical improvements, new admissions protocols are reducing the time patients in the community must wait for beds at McLean. As part of a 2009 pilot program, patients with low-risk or no underlying medical issues may proceed directly to McLean without requiring an ER medical clearance. This new protocol has been made possible with the help of Partners affiliate Newton-Wellesley Hospital (NWH), whose ER assists the CEC with medical issues of incoming patients. If a patient arrives at McLean needing immediate medical care, NWH will help transfer that patient to its ER.
“These protocols have enabled us to serve more people in need and, when combined with the new physical surroundings, have resulted in a more user-friendly admissions process,” says CEC Program Director Diane Bedell, LICSW. To compensate for the increased access, the CEC, intake, and inpatient staffs at McLean have worked with much dedication to provide the same high level of care, while managing patients who are coping with more challenging psychiatric illnesses “Our teams have been very responsive,” says Bedell. “They have worked incredibly hard to accommodate our patients and their family members.”
The Short Term Unit (STU) is just one of the inpatient programs at McLean that has stepped up to accommodate the needs of patients, while undergoing its own transformation. Whereas the STU and CEC had long shared space in the Admissions Building, the STU expanded from 23 to 28 beds in 2009, assuming occupancy of the entire first floor of Admissions.
“The STU cares for a large number of patients,” says STU Medical Director Steven Gelda, MD. “The five additional beds have helped tremendously in our ability to treat even more patients. There has always been a need for increased access; now, we have the added capacity.”
The STU features four newly constructed interview rooms, a larger nursing station, additional meeting space for group and expressive therapies, and bright, naturally lit lounge areas.
The improvements made to the STU and CEC have greatly enhanced the patient and family experience at McLean, while meeting the overall need for increased access by the greater mental health community. “Our patients are receiving not only the best possible care but in an environment that’s safe and comfortable. That’s an added reassurance,” Bedell notes.