Inpatient Psychiatric Care FAQ

Learn what to expect as a patient or if you’re visiting El Camino Health's behavioral health services unit.

Can I get information about a patient’s condition?

When patients are admitted for inpatient psychiatric care, they fill out a confidentiality form that specifies who can receive information about their condition. This assures that doctors and staff know whom they can share information with. All members of the mental health team are dedicated to maintaining patient privacy.

Can patients have visitors?

It’s up to patients to decide whether they want visitors during their stay. When someone is admitted, they’re asked about their preference. Patients can decide to admit all visitors who request a visit, a select few or no visitors during their stay.

Where is Mental Health & Addiction Services unit at El Camino Health?

It’s located in the old main hospital of the Mountain View campus, on One South. There are two secure sections within the unit: acute care and intensive care.

Who can visit and when?

When patients agree to have visitors, friends and family are welcome during visiting hours, seven days a week:

  • Daytime: Noon – 1 p.m.
  • Evening: 5 – 8 p.m.
  • Holidays: Noon – 8 p.m.

Are children allowed to visit?

Children under 18 are allowed to visit patients in the acute care unit, but not those in the intensive care unit.

What can I expect when I visit someone?

All visitors check in at the reception desk, where you’ll be asked to leave your personal belongings — including cell phones (turned off or with the ringer off). We prefer you store your belongings outside the unit in a secure place. If you’re unable to do so, we can store them safely at the nurses station during your visit.

Are electronic devices allowed?

To protect patient privacy, we don’t permit electronic devices that allow you to take a photo or make a recording, which includes phones, laptops and iPads.

Patients have access to a password-protected desktop computer during their stay.

What do patients need to bring to the hospital for their stay?

Patients need only bring a few personal items, including:

  • Three days of clothing (there’s an on-site washer and dryer). Clothing should be without drawstrings, belts or ties.
  • Extra underwear and a sweatshirt or sweater.
  • Reading materials, board games, or comfort items such as favorite blanket or pillow.

Toiletries are provided on the unit. However, patients can bring small toiletry items and an electric razor, which can be stored in a secure closet. Please leave valuables at home, or they can be stored in the security office. If you’re unsure about a particular item, ask a nurse.

What if the patient is missing work or jury duty?

The doctor can write a letter to the patient’s employer or the court stating that the patient is unavailable until a certain date.

Can patients make and receive phone calls?

Yes. Both the acute care and intensive care units have phones in the hallway that are available to patients. Patients can make and receive calls between 7:30 a.m. and 11 p.m., except when group therapy is in session.

What if the patient is a smoker?

El Camino Health is a nonsmoking facility. When appropriate, the doctor can order a nicotine patch or gum for patients during their stay.

When do patients meet with a doctor?

All new patients will be assigned to and examined by a psychiatrist and an internal medicine doctor within the first 24 hours of their admission. During their stay, patients meet individually with their psychiatrist every day.

What type of group therapy is provided?

Group therapy is an important part of treatment, and all patients are encouraged to participate. Each day, patients can take part in a variety of group activities that focus on thoughts, feelings and behaviors through expressive arts, mindfulness and stress management groups. Other education groups and community support groups focus on giving patients hope and educating them on their specific needs.

Are there any meetings to discuss patient progress during treatment?

Every week, the doctor will schedule a planning meeting — called a goals conference — with the patient, the patient’s nurse and a social worker. Patients are encouraged to invite family members or others to attend the meeting.

During the conference, the care team will discuss the patient’s progress and what continuing care is needed after discharge. This offers an opportunity for both patients and their loved ones to ask questions and discuss concerns.

What happens when it’s time to leave the hospital?

Before being discharged from the hospital, patients receive a personalized plan — based on recommendations from their care team — that outlines treatment after they leave the hospital.

Patients typically leave the facility between 8:30 a.m. and noon. To ensure the health, safety and welfare of our patients, we require that patients have a friend or family member pick them up from the hospital. In some instances, alternate arrangements may be made if family members or friends are unavailable to pick up patients.

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