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Dan Frodyma: Compassionate Care Starts with Me

A mental breakdown. A physical assault. An anxiety attack. When patients are at their lowest, who picks up the pieces?

In these emergencies, patients rely on teammates in the Psychiatric Emergency Department (ED) at the UNC Medical Center (UNCMC) in Chapel Hill. The Psychiatric ED, one of UNCMC’s largest psychiatric units, has 40 beds and averages about 30 patients a day. The team is equipped to quickly assess, care and support patients experiencing a behavioral health episode.

Head shot of Dan Frodyma
Dan Frodyma

In the Psychiatric ED, compassion and understanding start with Dan Frodyma, RN.

“Three days every week, Dan is our Charge Nurse,” explains Lori David, DNP, MBA, BSN, Quality Coach & Psych ED Interim Nurse Manager. “He leads with compassion, is a mentor to those that seek direction and has a very kind heart.”

“We see patients at their worst, many times violent, and other times greatly depressed,” Lori continues. “Dan will find the time to speak with them and their families and be a shoulder of strength, using his knowledge and skills to assist them with the leadership they deserve. Dan will never put himself first, and leads by example 100% of the time.”

Dan focuses on providing compassionate care, offering deep listening and being a pillar of support to patients.

“I treat my patients the same as I treat my own children. The same boundaries, the same everything. It is all done with respect, love and honesty. I treat everyone like a human being,” Dan explains.

“The majority of the parents we are exposed to are bringing their children to us out of desperation. They have tried to manage on their own using their parenting skills and what they’ve been exposed to as a guide,” continued Dan. “I have raised five children and we have dealt with learning disabilities, depression, anxieties and a lot of different aspects [of mental health]. [When people ask how I do what I do] I just remember all those times when my children had no one else to turn to – so they turned to mom and dad. The adults and children who come into the ED do not have that person. I have made a commitment to be their person, and I commit fully to that.”

While Dan is grateful for the recognition, he highlights that there is still a negative stigma associated with mental health and the need for that to change.

“The country needs to recognize that mental illness is a disease. It is a medical problem with a psychiatric solution. [Mental health patients] are still people. We are still nurses – and we have a job to do. Some people save patients with cardiac issues; I save patients from their anxiety and depression. We all have the same goal, to make people better…. That’s our job,” Dan says.

Both Dan and Lori stress that no one should feel ashamed or afraid to seek care for their mental illness and they stress the importance of providers utilizing teams like theirs to help provide patients with the care and support that they need.

“Mental health does not discriminate. It affects everybody. We need to pay more attention.” Dan urges.

May is Mental Health Month. If you, a teammate or a loved one is struggling with mental illness – please get help.

View this list of national hotlines or available services offered by UNC Psychiatry and talk to someone today.

Read other #ValuesSuperStars stories.



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