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Psychiatric Hospital debuts new inpatient unit for psychotic disorders

Aug. 7, 2019, 3:46 PM

Attendees cut the ribbon at last week’s event marking the opening of the Charlotte and Donald Test Jr. Center at Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital.
Attendees cut the ribbon at last week’s event marking the opening of the Charlotte and Donald Test Jr. Center at Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital. (photo by Anne Rayner)

by Kelsey Herbers

On Aug. 1, Vanderbilt University Medical Center celebrated the opening of the Charlotte and Donald Test Jr. Center at Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital, a new inpatient unit that has expanded the hospital’s inpatient capacity from 92 to 106 with the addition of 14 new adult beds. The unit marks the hospital’s first constructed inpatient expansion since its doors opened in December 1985.

Housed on the facility’s third floor, the unit will be dedicated to patients who voluntarily admit themselves for treatment to correctly diagnose and better manage their symptoms. The unit will focus primarily on patients in the early stage of a psychotic disorder and on patients who need the most comprehensive diagnostic clarity and close monitoring to find answers with a goal of establishing a supportive transition plan for sustained outpatient treatment.

“The Charlotte and Donald Test Jr. Center opens at a very important time, as the need for excellence in diagnostic accuracy, clinical quality and outcomes research in behavioral health has never been greater,” said Jameson Norton, MBA, Chief Executive Officer of Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital and Clinics. “It will meaningfully enhance our capabilities to deliver on a mission of personalized healing and discovery while elevating the standard of care and clinical education on behalf of the patients and families we serve.”

The center is named in honor of Donald Test Jr. and his wife, Charlotte, who have been longtime supporters of VUMC’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and are committed to furthering research to enhance the treatment of psychiatric disorders.

“We are grateful to the Test family for their friendship and support over many years,” said Stephan Heckers, MD, MSc, William P. and Henry B. Test Professor of Schizophrenia Research and chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

Each of the new unit’s seven bedrooms includes two beds, two desks/chairs, shelving for personal belongings and a large bathroom. The space, which previously housed a research laboratory, is also composed of a group room, sensory room, nurse’s station, an open common area and a room dedicated to patient care planning. The unit offers plenty of natural light, calming paint colors and modern wood accents.

Because the unit is designed for patients who are actively engaged in their care, the group rooms will be used for activities that require dynamic patient participation. The clinical program has been modeled for continuity with the hospital’s existing partial hospitalization program and psychosis outpatient clinic to include higher-level coping skills, such as mindfulness and cognitive strategies for dealing with psychiatric symptoms.

The team-based approach to treatment will include advanced psychotherapy, family-based therapy, medication management, pastoral care and supported education and employment.

“Because of the higher-level group programming, we can now offer a person who is willing to engage in treatment the final piece of the puzzle in our whole vertical service line, from stabilization in an emergency all the way to outpatient care,” said Heckers. “It’s still inpatient care, but with a level of engagement and participation by the patient that will prepare them to do well in the long run.”

The unit will also allow the hospital to conduct more focused research into disease mechanisms in an acute and multidisciplinary team-based inpatient setting, as patients who are admitted involuntarily to the hospital are ineligible to participate in research.

“We want to understand the full course of the illness, beginning with its acute stage. We do not want to wait for the person to be discharged to the outpatient setting where they no longer present with acute symptoms,” said Heckers. “The new clinical environment now allows us to approach patients for research while they are inpatient, as we already do in the Vanderbilt University Adult Hospital.”

Patients will begin using the space in mid-August.

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