According to the the Burea of Labor Statistics, about 20 percent of psychologists work in a hospital setting. While it will depend on what the hospital itself specializes in and whether it is connected to a larger medical hospital, often many of the daily tasks of a psychologist will be the same from hospital to hospital. The main areas consist of keeping up with other staff members, direct patient care, and documentation of that care.
Facilitating Communication Between Staff
Hospitals are 24 hour facilities, and often it is important for a psychologist coming to the hospital in the morning to know about what happened the night before and vice versa. It is also important for all members of a patient’s care team to communicate on a regular basis in order to provide the best possible treatment.
A portion of a psychologist’s day will be spent in meetings with social workers, therapy staff, nurses, and other psychologists to discuss current treatment plans and anything important for other staff members to know. It is during this time that warnings about suicidal thoughts or self-harming behavior can be passed on for the safety of the patients and staff. This is also when people involved in different aspects of treatment will come together to make a coherent plan.
Direct Patient Care
A large part of a hospital psychologist’s day will be spent in individual or group therapy sessions. Individual sessions are intended to build trust with the patient and get to the root of behavior, whether it be mental illness or dysfunctional family situations. Everything said in a therapy session is confidential unless there is a threat that the patient might hurt himself or others.
Group therapy is generally focused around a central theme. Psychologists may offer group therapy for substance abuse, grief counseling, depression, anxiety, or anger management. These group sessions often help patients understand they are not alone in their struggles and allow them to hear perspectives from other people in similar situations to theirs. Larger groups may be facilitated by two therapists rather than one, although one will take the lead in order to avoid confusion.
Keeping Up Documentation
A significant portion of a hospital psychologists day involves some form of paperwork. Every aspect of treatment and therapy must be documented for the well being of the patient, clear communication between various staff members, including people at other facilities, and to stay in accordance with the law.
Documentation of treatment may be especially important when the court is involved. If a patient has committed a serious crime and the treatment is part of their sentence, careful documentation helps the court understand what is being done and how successful treatment has been. Psychologists may also occasionally be called to testify as to a patient’s recovery and state of mind. This can influence the court’s decision to keep the individual in treatment or release the patient either to his or her family or to an assisted living facility.
Working in a hospital can be very stressful and sometimes distressing. It is important for psychologists to practice good self care, ensuring that they are not feeling too much anxiety in their work, especially when they leave the office. This can include debriefing with other psychologists, attending therapy, or simply relaxing at home or with friends. Psychologists may also see other employees to help them deal with stress and patient care.
While surprises will always come up, the average psychologist’s day includes meetings, paper work, direct patient care, and self care. Each of these aspects is important to ensure the patient gets the best possible treatment from professionals working with all the information at the top of their game.