How Psychiatric Hospitals are Different from General Hospitals

The special needs of patients and residents in psychiatric units and psychiatric hospitals, rehab centers, drug treatment centers, and behavioral health care facilities lead to special needs for the institutions themselves. These medical facilities must create safe and secure environments for the protection of both staff and patients. A number of specialty manufacturers such as NorixHumane Restraint, and Duramax make beds, chairs, tables, and other furniture that keeps both staff and patients safe, but this is just part of the puzzle.

Psychiatric health care units and facilities need to be different from general health care environments in a number of critical ways. According to Behavioral Health Facility Consulting LLC (BHFC), these are some of the key ways in which hospital psych units are different from general hospital units:

For starters, in psychiatric units, the focus is on keeping patient safe from self-harm and protecting other patients and staff, whereas in general hospitals the focus is on treating patients’ medical conditions.

The function of space is different in psychiatric units. In psych units, treatment takes place in activity rooms, interview rooms, and group rooms, and family visitation takes place either in interview rooms or in common areas. In contrast, for general medical patients, both treatment and family visitations take place in the patient rooms. General medical patients are in their rooms most of the time, while in psychiatric units, the patient is encouraged NOT to be in his room except at night and during rest periods.

Psychiatric units also employ different floor plan designs and solutions. A primary concern in psychiatric units is the ability for staff to observe corridors and day rooms from staff stations. Access to and from the unit is restricted, and details like the direction of door swings (to resist barricading) are important. Special rooms are required, such as Group Rooms, Activity Rooms, Interview Rooms and Seclusion Rooms. These concerns and requirements do not apply to general medical units, where traffic flow and the total travel distance from patient rooms to staff stations are primary concerns.

Another difference is in the products and materials used in psychiatric units.  For one thing, there are fewer of them, and they need to be less hazardous.  For example, typical psychiatric patient rooms and bath rooms do not have the following: sharps containers, IV poles, medical gas outlets, TV sets, monitors with cables, cubicle curtain tracks, accessible ceilings, and phones.  Instead, they typically do have the following: platform beds that are secured in place, windows and mirrors that are shatter resistant, wardrobes with only open fixed shelves, ligature resistant door hardware and toilet accessories, vandal resistant heating and cooling systems and light fixtures, ligature resistant plumbing fixtures, and concealed plumbing pipes.

These are some of the differences, but there are many details that need to be considered when designing and operating behavioral and psychiatric hospitals and healthcare units. Other considerations include making sure furnishings are tamper-proof, designed with suicide prevention and limiting self-harm in mind. Nothing should be overlooked when it comes to patient safety.