The TV and “tech” room at Mid Coast Hospital’s Behavioral Health Unit (BHU).
Imagine being without your phone, computer or iPad for weeks at a time. That’s the reality for many behavioral health patients. In inpatient behavioral health units, phones are taken from patients at admission and tech products are banned from patient use for privacy and safety reasons, such as taking photos or using shards from a broken screen to do bodily harm. This can be frustrating for patients, as they may want to use a phone for life maintenance tasks or they simply want to watch a video to relax.
Inspired by a long-term patient who wanted more time with his phone, care team members at Mid Coast Hospital’s Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) came up with a way to help by instituting “tech time.” Tech time is set aside for patients to use their devices in the unit’s activity room while under the supervision of staff. Patients are given their devices with the camera covered by silk tape (which doesn’t leave a residue) to alleviate privacy concerns, and staff monitor the patients, to ensure everyone is using their devices safely. Staff encourage patients to use tech time to explore therapeutic uses of music, reading and apps to help with recovery, as well as maintaining ties with friends and family. Sometimes a patient may become triggered due to content on their phone such as a difficult text conversation with an ex-spouse or friend, and staff are there to help de-escalate patients and work with them to ensure they stay safe. Patients must have a provider’s order to participate in tech time, online shopping is discouraged, and phone calls and video chats are not allowed. At the end of each session, patients turn in their devices and they’re given the opportunity to debrief with staff. Patients must agree to guidelines before joining tech time and it is considered a privilege that can be taken away if rules are broken or if it becomes contraindicated or otherwise non-therapeutic.
Tech time began as a trial at Mid Coast in February 2022 and has been so successful it is now a regular feature of life on the inpatient psychiatry unit. “Overall, it has been an innovative and wonderful way for patients to stay in touch and feel in control of their lives,” says BHU Staff Nurse Erin F.
“I like tech time a lot … It relaxes me because I get to play my Switch (video game) which is something to look forward to and chill out with. I like that it’s not too long, so I don’t get distracted and only do that, like I do at home sometimes. It definitely helps relax me being able to have access to it and knowing that it will be coming up every day.”
– Mid Coast Behavioral Health Unit Patient, Age 18
Staff will continue assessing and fine-tuning the program to ensure it is serving patients in a positive, therapeutic way.
- Danielle Hersey, BHU Nurse Manager
- Mackenzie Dufresne, RN, BSN, Professional Practice Committee Chair
- Sue E., RN-BC
- Kate K., CCRN, ACNP-BC
- Laurie J., RN-BC