'She thought her baby was a chicken, so she tried to boil him' : Hospital Bahagia nurse shares his frontline experience 

KUALA LUMPUR: A mother attempting to boil her baby following a postpartum psychotic episode ranks among the most extreme cases for psychiatric nurse Muhammad Efsan Panjang Ahmad.

After 10 years of service, the 34-year-old Hospital Bahagia Ulu Kinta nurse, who once received an award for excellent service in 2019 from the Perak Health Department, shares some of the most unforgettable encounters he has had with patients.

Today, as the world celebrates International Nurses Day, Efsan sheds light on the crucial role that nurses in the psychotic ward play in dealing with patients stigmatised and marginalised by society.

Chilling encounters, like the one involving the mother diagnosed with postpartum psychosis, are often triggered by excessive stress.

In an interview with the New Sunday Times, Efsan shared how her husband had left her alone with the baby because he had to work.

"He (the husband) told me that he recalls his wife hearing whispers a few days before the incident happened.

"She believed that her baby was a chicken," he said, explaining her condition.

Fortunately for the 1-month-old baby, a neighbour intervened upon hearing his distressed cries, leading to the mother's swift hospitalisation.

"New mothers can be vulnerable to stress during the post-natal period," said Efsan.

He added that besides experiencing depression during the pregnancy period and having a history of mental illness, financial strain and having to cope with a constantly crying baby are also some common triggers.

"All of these can induce emotional instability, often leading to depression or aggressive behaviour."

Efsan, who goes by Efsan Chan on Tik Tok, often takes to social media to educate his followers about mental health and how important it is to have patience and understanding of people who go through depression.

While his work can sometimes be very testing, experience, he said, has taught him well.

"I've had my patience tested on many incidents.

"But it has also taught me to be more understanding towards my patients as they often face stigma and are outcasts in society, including their own family.

"They would get told that they lack faith and hospitals become the only place for them to seek help."

Recalling some of the wildest moments he has had with a patient, Efsan said that a patient once ripped off his uniform.

"The doctor directed me to administer medication on a patient who was suffering from a drug withdrawal.

"Patients like this one will typically experience auditory hallucinations, memory problems and disorientation.

"I was attacked after he refused to take the medication."

This he added, is what comes with the job.

"In my line of work, this is what we have to deal with every day.

"As nurses, we must not only show sympathy but also cultivate empathy.

"Knowing someone doesn't necessarily mean that we can understand them," he said.

As a psychiatric ward nurse, Efsan said, it's common to get stereotyped as being less skilled than other nurses.

"There are those who believe that nurses working in psychiatric units are less skilled than nurses working in other units.

"However, my opinion is that regardless of the unit we're in, we all need each other, and each unit has its own strengths. I want to thank all my fellow colleagues for showing up everyday to help those in need," he said.

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