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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Psychiatry attachments: top tips

This page contains top tips for making the best of your psychiatry attachment.


Psychiatry attachments: top tips

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 examination.

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 ICD-10.

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 but safe

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 picture.

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 meeting patients.





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Find out about the benefits and challenges of a career in psychiatry from real psychiatrists – see Choose Psychiatry.