Marcia Quainoo, JRMC Registered Nurse, was always interested in working in psychiatry, but she had no idea how much it would change her life when that interest became her career. Through working on the psychiatry floor, Marcia said she learned to live a simpler yet more valued life, that every day matters, that mental health is for everyone and that by helping her patients find their hope and healing, she could find her own.
Marcia’s mother and oldest sister passed away from cancer. She dedicated herself to becoming a nurse and caring for her patients, which led her to JRMC. However, in her efforts to learn more about the disease that took her mother and sister, she eventually found herself working in oncology at another hospital.
As time went on, Marcia found that working in oncology was too emotionally difficult, so she decided to come back home. “I really missed the community,” she said. “I love working at JRMC – that’s one reason I came back.” At that time – over 10 years ago – she chose the JRMC Psychiatry floor, and now she enjoys a career that she truly loves and feels is her calling.
“I always tell people that I found healing among the mentally ill,” Marcia said. “I dealt with a lot of changes in my life, and even though I love nursing, I actually thought for a moment about doing something totally different. But when I took this position, it put the light back in my life. It really helped me and my coping skills.”
Marcia said she learned a very important lesson working in psychiatry: all people should focus on their mental health – not just patients. “Mental health is often so low on our priority list,” she said, “but I have found out it really needs to be number one.”
Marcia said that if people understood the ins and outs of mental health care, there wouldn’t be such a stigma on mental health issues. “If people really knew what it entailed, people would look at it a lot different, and I think the world would be a lot better too,” she said. “So much of my job is confidential, but on the floor I work on, I see so many success stories that the public never has the chance to see.”’
When it comes to improving mental health, Marcia said communication is a top priority. “Most of the time, all patients need you to do is listen,” she said. “And if you listen long enough, they’re probably going to come up with their own answer. I’ve seen this so many times: A patient is talking, and they come up with their own answers or coping skills. We just help guide them along the way. I really find joy in that.”
Marcia said it’s very important for patients to feel understood. “I try my best not to continually say ‘it’s going to be okay.’ Instead, I try to really have empathy. It becomes so easy for somebody to say ‘it’s not that bad.’ But when someone is grieving, you need to allow them to feel what they’re feeling at that moment. When you say things like that, they think you’re just passing it off – that you really don’t get it.”
On the psychiatry floor, patients are taught to be self-sufficient. “We try to make sure they don’t get in a position where they become dependent on just what I’m thinking,” she said. “They need to know what they believe themselves, so I ask a lot of open-ended questions. I help guide them and redirect that negative conversation to something a little bit more positive.”
Marcia said that for the most part, psychiatry is a self-help unit. Patients are taught coping mechanisms such as journaling, listening to music and engaging in open-ended conversations with one another. “We deal with diagnosis from schizophrenia to depression to bipolar,” she said. “There’s no one set diagnosis on the floor, so if patients sit in a group and hear other patients talk about their problems and their coping skills, that generally helps them.” A nutritious diet and exercise are also encouraged to improve patients’ mental health.
Marcia said that she would tell anyone struggling with mental health to open up to someone else. “It’s so important to ventilate your feelings and emotions,” she said. “Medication helps the symptom, but it doesn’t heal the problem. You have to be able to deal with the underlying issue. Find someone you trust and share that with them. Letting those feelings out could help you get over that hump and say, ‘okay, I’m not the only one that’s going through something.’”
Of the things Marcia has learned, three very impactful lessons come to her mind, one being the value of life. “I look at life so different now,” she said. “My life became so much simpler, but it’s so gratifying. When you’ve been deeply affected by different people from all different backgrounds and situations, it really helps balance you. Every day matters – every day is so important. Life is good, even when it’s bad – I found that out too. I could go on and on about it, because it literally changed my life.”
She said she’s also learned how to better communicate with the people in her life. “I can listen to people better now,” she said. “I have learned to meet people where they are and love them at their level. And now I meet myself where I am, too – because it’s okay. That’s my favorite thing now: it’s okay – it is well.”
Lastly, Marcia said she learned the value of putting her own mental and emotional health as a top priority in her life. “Before, I had to do things a specific way and look a specific way, and I was stressed,” she said. “I always wanted people to be happy and everything perfect around me, but I was so consumed with everybody else that I would forget about myself. I have learned to value my own life. I’ve learned to really, truly love me and pay attention to my own well-being. I have found that if you don’t love yourself, you can’t love somebody else.”
Marcia said she is grateful to daily experience something that she believes is rare – truly loving her career. “Most days, I don’t even know I’m really tired until I get home,” she said. “But it’s not an ‘I don’t want to go to work the next day’ tired. I know most people don’t experience that, but I thank the Lord that I have experienced that in life – to really love what I do.”
If you are struggling mentally and emotionally or feeling overwhelmed, please reach out to your healthcare provider and let him or her know what’s going on. We encourage you to discuss your options with your provider and ask for help.