Maine Behavioral Healthcare opened a new behavioral health unit last year on the Southern Maine Health Care campus in Sanford. The adult unit spans two floors with capacity to serve 40 patients when fully staffed. For Gina Breggia-Reidy, RN, recently named nurse manager, the unit represents a much-needed increase in available psychiatric services for the area. Breggia-Reidy is a seasoned health care professional who came on board as the new unit prepared to open and was excited to be involved in that process.
“It is a unique opportunity to be involved in building a new program with so many individuals who all share the same goal; to provide exceptional care to those in need of mental health services.”
Breggia-Reidy began her career in 2002 serving as a psychiatric technician at Spring Harbor Hospital, an ideal learning environment. She later attended nursing school and worked in pediatrics for five years before accepting her new role in Sanford early this year.
“It was wonderful to see so many familiar faces from my days at Spring Harbor. Everyone was so excited about the unit opening and what it would mean to the area. I’m proud that our team had a very big role in developing the programs and designing the area to be sure it was warm, welcoming and included all the elements necessary for a safe, secure psychiatric unit.”
Part of what makes the unit so successful is a shared governance model to manage operations.
“We have monthly meetings that are are directed by the staff. Everyone has an opportunity to share concerns and discuss and develop workflows. It’s a very collaborative approach to decision making.”
What Breggia-Reidy envisions is a flexible and fluid team who can support one another and easily move from one floor to the other depending on the needs of the patients. The unit includes a multidisciplinary team composed of social workers, discharge planners, group facilitators, psychiatric nurses, nurse practitioners and psychiatric technicians, psychiatrists and a nurse educator who helps orient new nurses.
Understanding Patients and their Needs
“Being admitted to a locked psychiatric unit can be very scary. That’s why we work so hard to make sure the environment makes the patients feel comfortable. It’s also important for us to do what we can to remove the stigma and raise awareness that anyone can be impacted by a mental illness. The person who needs an admission to a psychiatric unit could be your family member, your friend or perhaps a neighbor who lost a loved one and can’t seem to move beyond the grief.”
Patient days can be filled with group activities, quiet time in the outside patio, recreational activities, and skill building, along with the therapy and medication that will support each individual’s recovery. Creating a “homey” feel is also important. It is not uncommon for staff to bring in special treats, like ice cream, or to organize Super Bowl parties.
“Our role is to support those who are experiencing a mental health crisis and provide them with the programming and services they need to recover. Seeing our patients stabilize and move on to the next level of care, whatever that may be, is the greatest reward.”