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SEIU Local 535 Dragon--Voice of  the Union-- American Federation of Nurses & Social Services Unioin  

Crisis Nurse

July 2003Nurse Beverly Sedlacek sitting behind her desk

When someone comes into the Vallejo crisis unit, crisis nurse Beverly Sedlacek completes a nursing health assessment. It is important to determine the physical condition of each client because some medical conditions mimic mental health conditions. For example, a low-functioning thyroid condition may produce complaints of depression. If the thyroid condition is treated, the depression may lift. “We see clients who may complain of panic attacks or bugs crawling around. We’ll want to first do a urine drug screen test to rule out illicit street drugs. A number of clients present with dual diagnoses—psychiatric illness and drug abuse. Many times the drug abuse must be treated prior to getting an accurate picture of the psychiatric illness.”

Sedlacek has a masters degree in nursing and her own private counseling service, but she likes working part-time at the crisis center because she feels an affinity for the clients she sees there. “I love this population. I often think if given the same set of circumstances in life I would be where these clients are.” In private practice Sedlacek sees people with a variety of emotional issues, but they are usually functional in life. “The people I see in crisis are those who have marginal or no coping skills and often need someone to hold out hope to them. I often find myself acting as an advocate and a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves,” she says.

Sedlacek may be the first health care provider to identify some medical problem because frequently the chronically mentally ill ignore their health or may not be heard in a medical setting. “I don’t see them as a diagnosis,” she explains. “I see them as people with a diagnosis. I seek to connect with them and care for them as people who happen to have a mental health diagnosis. I seek to empower them to choose life: ‘Okay, you have this problem. How can you still enjoy some meaningful quality of life?’ What is special about the Vallejo crisis unit,” concluded Sedlacek, “is the level of caring of the entire staff, from clerical staff, the security officer, to the mental health clinicians. It is satisfying to be a part of this staff that is making a difference in the Vallejo community.”