Mott psychiatric unit improvements successful during first month

Wednesday, May 4, 2016 - 2:17pm

The Nyman Family Unit for Child and Adolescent Mental Health and Wellness, a new pediatric inpatient psychiatric unit within C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, opened April 4. The unit is a structural and technological improvement from the previous unit located in the Health System's old children’s hospital. 

Construction of the unit, which began about three years ago, was funded both by the University of Michigan and a donation from psychotherapist Jo Elyn Nyman. The unit can accommodate up to 16 pediatric patients through the age of 17.

Ben Biermann, inpatient director for child and adolescent psychiatry, said the old psychiatric unit needed improvements to provide the specialized type of care young patients need.

“It’s an inpatient unit for treating kids and adolescents who have a serious psychiatric illness,” Biermann said. “Most of the kids who are admitted to the unit are there because there’s a safety concern. These are kids who have severe depression and are feeling suicidal, or who have psychotic symptoms, or who are having significant behavioral disturbances or other dangerous behaviors such as eating disorders or substance abuse. It’s a safe place for those kids to get assessed and treated and get a safe transition to outpatient care.”

Nursing Supervisor Nicole Figueroa said the new unit has an increased focused on creating a healing environment than the old unit.

“It’s really important to have a state-of-the-art unit for patients, particularly pediatric patients, with mental health diagnoses because it is a stigmatized group of patients and a lot of other institutions are older or they haven’t put a lot of thought into the design, so having a place where kids can really heal with their family around creates the best healing environment for the patient and their family,” Figueroa said.

Biermann echoed Figueroa’s sentiments, saying the unit aims to decrease the stigma associated with mental illness.

“Children and adolescents do struggle with psychiatric disorders just like their adult counterparts,” Biermann said. “Having the unit in the children’s hospital, along with all the other patients receiving medical treatment, does a lot to erase stigma, to bring psychiatric disorders and mental health issues to public awareness.”

According to Biermann, having the pediatric psychiatric unit in Mott is advantageous for interactions with other departments. 

“The fact that we’re right in the children’s hospital makes it easier for us to get consultation from the medical services and makes us more accessible to our pediatric colleagues who might need our help with their patients,” Biermann said.

Biermann added that there are additionally many structural improvements in the new unit, including the larger size and visibility of patients. 

“It is much more functional. There are some important safety features, like a lot of the sight lines that are used to be able to look up and down the hallway and see where the patients are, are improved. In the old unit, there were a lot of hidden spaces, and the shape of the unit didn’t lend itself to being able to see where the patients were,” Biermann said.  

According to Biermann, the new unit can accommodate families who want to stay over with their children. It also has improved workspaces for staff members, doctors and nurses as well as a separate area for patients who need particularly intensive care.  

Both Biermann and Figueroa said thus far the unit has received positive feedback from both patients and their families and has been operating at full capacity since its opening.

“We have a large hospital at U-M that cares for kids and so, to have also this unit that is caring for kids within the bigger institution, that just shows U-M’s great commitment to outstanding psychiatric care and mental health care as a whole for the University,” Figueroa said.

Biermann said those who lead the unit are happy with its improvements but are in the process of making further additions, such as hiring more staff members to improve the delivery of care and bring more specified care to patients. The unit additionally aims to continue improving parental and family involvement int he care process.  

“The University of Michigan can serve as a model of excellence for inpatient psychiatric care,” Biermann said. “I think we provide state-of-the-art care, and now we do so in a state-of-the-art environment and are pretty cutting-edge in terms of the services we have.”

The University Health System and psychiatric unit staff is currently discussing what will be done with the previous unit.