When interviewing for the Pine Rest Psychiatry Residency, I was greeted by friendly, caring people who were passionate about mental health in the same way that I am. I hadn’t been to another facility where everyone was so excited about their work. I knew immediately Pine Rest was a special place.
During my residency, I had the opportunity to learn from some of the best. I felt very supported. Someone was always there for me, whether I was stumbling through my first evaluation of a patient, asking for guidance as I learned to come up with my own treatment plans for patients or trying to figure out my future goals. This was in large part why I chose to stay at Pine Rest for my geriatric psychiatry fellowship.
I’ve always enjoyed working with the older adult population, whether that was running bingo nights at the nursing home or putting together a nursing home prom for the ladies who loved dressing up and dancing. Certainly, there can be loneliness and isolation in nursing homes, but I appreciate the residents’ resilience, humor and wisdom.
One kind, wonderful woman in her 70s showed me that sticking with a patient, you sometimes see glints of hope. She had struggled with OCD and an eating disorder for a large portion of her life. Passive at appointments, she would tell me her concerns only if I asked her multiple times. Her low weight was a very concerning issue, and we had many difficult discussions. The reality finally set in, and she became less passive, worked on gradual exposure to the things she feared and progressively increased her portion sizes. She came to our last appointment smiling, “I’m a new person today!” She shared her goals,
which included eating a sundae before bed each night. She is my only patient to whom my reply was, “That’s the best idea ever!”
Throughout my residency and fellowship, I’ve enjoyed great opportunities to work with older adults in a wide variety of settings. I’m excited to start my new adventure as an inpatient geriatric psychiatrist on the Pine Rest older adult unit in July!
Jessica O’Mara, DO, an alumnus of the first class of the Pine Rest Psychiatry Residency, is currently the first Pine Rest Geriatric Psychiatry Fellow and accepted a position as geriatric psychiatrist on the Older Adult Inpatient Unit starting July 1, 2019.
The Older Adult Inpatient Unit is located in the Van Andel • Cook Center for Dementia & Geriatric Behavioral Health on the Pine Rest campus, our older adult inpatient unit has capacity for 26 patient beds. The unit includes a distinct close observation wing with 10 private patient rooms, allowing for separation of patients by capability. There are larger areas where patients can safely move about for group activities and dining, as well as many advanced safety and therapeutic features in order to provide a comfortable, supportive environment.
This article first appeared in the Pine Rest 2018 Annual Report.