JUNE 2009


Judy Toy, R.N., C.N. II, psychiatric nurse, Adult Eating Disorders Partial Hospitalization Program

A Homecoming Story

Psychiatric nurse braves a two-and-one-half-hour commute each way, to work at UCLA.

What is your role in the Adult Eating Disorders Partial Hospitalization Program?
I am a psychiatric nurse in the UCLA Adult Eating Disorders Partial Hospitalization Program. I work with our team to provide care to patients with eating disorders. UCLA offers three levels of care: inpatient hospitalization for acutely ill patients, partial hospitalization and outpatient care. I work with patients who have been treated in the inpatient setting and then transition to the partial hospitalization program. In the partial program, our patients continue the treatment they started as inpatients. We focus our care on self-regulation of eating, managing anxiety and relapse prevention. The goal is to support our patients’ transition back to their homes, schools and work environments.

I work closely with Deborah Green, R.N., and Nathan Chang, senior mental health practitioner, in providing the day-to-day care for our patients. We lead educational groups on relapse prevention, coping with anxiety, relaxation and outings to eat in restaurants.

How did you get into psychiatric nursing?
When I was 17 years old, I was interested in working with developmentally disabled people, so my high school counselor suggested I volunteer at a local hospital. The hospital assigned me to the adolescent unit of a psychiatric program and that great experience inspired me to become a psychiatric technician.

What is your background?
I worked as a senior psychiatric technician at UCLA in 1981 and was encouraged by my colleagues to pursue a nursing degree. With the help of the Bertha Unger Scholarship Fund, I was able to attend nursing school while working at UCLA. I left UCLA in 1998 to work at a residential treatment facility in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I stayed for four years. I then moved and worked in the Acute Psychiatric Inpatient Adolescent Unit at UC Irvine for the next seven years.

About a year ago, I realized that I wanted a change. I had worked for many years with patients with eating disorders primarily in the inpatient hospitalization program, and the idea of working with patients in need of psychiatric care was appealing to me. When a position at UCLA allowed me to work in my specialty and provided a schedule I wanted, I accepted the great opportunity despite the commute!

Why are you willing to commute such a distance to work at UCLA?
Taking this job was a bit of a homecoming for me and I have fond memories of my prior experience at UCLA, as well as a lot of professional growth, so the idea of coming back was very attractive. I drive to the Norwalk train station and ride a UCLA van pool onto campus. Going home is a little more complicated. I take a bus and train and finally pick up my car at the Norwalk station and drive home. My two-and-one-half-hour commute from San Juan Capistrano to UCLA allows me to catch up on my reading, relax and unwind, which is important to being able to balance my work schedule and family life.

What do you like about your job?
Being a psychiatric nurse is challenging, but I enjoy the challenge. We treat six to eight patients a day, each with one or multiple eating disorders, and we treat patients of varying ages and backgrounds. Each patient comes to the program with a different level of readiness and phase of recovery, and therefore must be treated with an individualized structure and care.

It’s very exciting and rewarding to work for the nationally recognized UCLA Eating Disorders Program. I don’t believe there is another program like it (with acute inpatient and partial outpatient treatment programs) in the Southern California area that can provide the level of exceptional care that we do. People travel long distances to be a part of our program. It’s rewarding to watch patients get better. That’s what makes working for UCLA so special. And, I couldn’t ask for better people to work with than at UCLA.

What personal hobbies do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I enjoy camping, kayaking, playing with my dog, reading and yoga.