Psychiatry attachments: top tips
This page contains top tips for making the best of your
1. Mental health examination
While on attachment, learn how to perform a mental state
examination: this is the psychiatrist's most useful tool and is the
closest equivalent to the physician's objective physical
It purports to offer a clear, objective snapshot view of
someone's mental functioning at a given time-point.
2. Diagnostic manual
Familiarise yourself with a diagnostic manual: it is the means
by which psychiatrists make diagnoses and looks at clusters of
symptoms. The most commonly used clinical manual in the UK is the
A pocket version is available from libraries. ICD-10
is also available online.
3. Reading up
As in medicine, it is useful to read up about a condition after
you have seen someone to consolidate learning. A good starting
point is the Oxford Handbook of Psychiatry, which can fit into a
bag and can be carried around. It is a treasure trove of useful
information, and is usefully whipped out in those idle moments when
waiting to speak to a patient.
You can also find useful information on the College website and
around the web:
4. Follow patient journeys
Get to know the day-to-day work of your team, including the
consultant and other doctors.
Although psychiatry attachments are often short, it may be a
possible to follow a patient through from being acutely unwell to
being improved and discharged.
This counters the old adage that psychiatry patients never get
better. It would be a nice touch to then do a home visit, post
discharge, with the home treatment team!
5. Seeing patients: be proactive
Patients are your best teachers and their stories are what makes
psychiatry so fascinating. Do mental health exams as explained
above. And check their case notes so you can build up a full
It is also an eye opener to follow core trainees on call:
interesting problems tend to present out of hours.
But be safe - make sure you know and follow local guidance. Talk
to colleagues about how best to behave and communicate openly with
them: raise any concerns you have or areas you are unsure of before