Hi Kara. I agree with the others that if you want to get into corrections, it is a VERY GOOD idea to have at least a year of med-surg under your belt. It is an environment unlike any other in nursing. You have to be able to assess your patient objectively, as the subjective info you get is not always accurate, you will need to take time to go over previous notes and histories obtained by others before you, and be able to come up with a diagnosis, and plan of treatment. Inmates will find all sorts of excuses why they can't work, or go to school, or whatever, and being able to see through the malingering behaviour is essential. Security is ALWAYS first and foremost, and you can be an effective caregiver while maintaining a secure and professional atmosphere. I always made it clear I would do whatever I could to help someone medically, but that I also would not tolerate the games inmates like to play, especially with new personnel. I treated them with the same respect I was shown, and it didn't take long for word to get around that I was fair but didn't put up with playing games. That attitude served me well the 6 years I spent in the state correctional system, first as a staff nurse, then later as an HIV counselor/tester and infection control nurse. You are often the only one who can do patient education on a regular basis, and you learn what you can handle and what you need to refer to the PA. or the MD. You should be aware of the legal implications of each inmate you are dealing with, not to judge them (that is not our function) but for your own safety and how best to interact with them. I found corrections very rewarding, but after 2 riots, and with new contractors coming in every 3 years and changing everything, it was time for me to move on. Another thing that will serve you well is to remember that even though they are convicted murderers, rapists, baby-touchers, armed robbers, etc, they are still human and are entitled to the best health care we as correctional nurses can provide while maintaining the integrity of the security in this enviroment. If you have good CO'S to work with, you develop a rapport with them and things can usually proceed fairly smoothly. You need to TRUST YOUR SECURITY STAFF, and show them that they, also, can trust you to carry out your job. Understandably, when you first start in this environment, you feel intimidated, and unsure of your self. You need to go in with the attitude that yes, I can do this, I can be professional, I can work within the security constraints, and I'm going to do a damn fine job. It takes a little while for everyone to get used to new nurses, but when they see you do care but at the same time you are not going to put up with a bunch of crap, then you are on the right road to being a successful correctional nurse. If I may, I would like to tell you that I worked in male correctional facility, and wanted nothing to do with the females. They are far more difficult to work with and are a lot more apt to give you a hard time; much more that the men; that's my personal feeling. Anyway, if this is what you want to do, get at least a year of med-surg before entertaining corrections. The med-surg will serve you well, and you will feel more qualified and more at ease with yourself by having done so. Good luck to you, Kara. Hope everything works out for you. Stay in touch.
Nursing is as good as we want it to be