Is it really as good as it sounds here?

  1. I've been reading this forum this a. m. I am really impressed. You all seem so happy and up beat. I find this very encouraging. So encourging I'm wondering what it is I'm not hearing.

    I'm reading because when I was a student my psy teacher was head of prison nursing in this state. She arranged for those who wanted to spend a day in a max prision. Very interesting and again up beat. Humm?

    About the time I graduated a new juvenile facility was in need of an RN. I was wanting to go into peids, this would be only about 5 iminutes from home. I did not apply as I was not sure if I was ready for that right out of school with no experience.

    There is a minimum security female prison close to that one and I wondered about working there before I went to nursing school.

    It sounds very interesting and I have talked very briefly with nurses who have worked at some of the other prisons in the area (we seem to have a LOT) They seem to especially like the pay.

    My problem is from my personal perspective correction officers and police officers seem to have a very negative view of the world and mistrust everyone. I would not want to work in an enviroment that encourages that. They seem to have an unusually high reguard for nurses BUT.

    I am wondering what tole it takes working in such an enviorment. When I spent my day as a student on the psyc unit of the prison I asked how the nurses and officers coped and what they did to releve stress and I really got very filp answers. Not that they meant to be disrespectful but I really got no insight as to how they kept good mental health for themselves.

    This day at the prison was set up as a way to recruit nurses and there was no secret made about it. So I wonder what we were not being told or shown.

    Oh yea, when I was a CNA working for agency I did a night shift in a california jail it was a with a woman who was confined to a hospital bed because of her extensive injuries from attempted ssuicide. It was a good experience. BUT the prison nurses aid I relieved was (unlike everyone else) in that he told me to essentially watch my back because if anything happened to the prisoner they they would hang it on me and no one would back me up. He had it that even if I went to eat or go to the rest room I would be in trouble if something happened. Yet I was told I could take my breaks. Both she and I were under constant view of the guards. This poor worman was in no shape to try to kill her self with all the casts she had on. I don't know maby it was because he was an aide and only paid about $6 that caused him to be like this. But he was talking like I personally would be facing a big law suite.
    Last edit by Agnus on Jan 3, '02
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  2. 32 Comments

  3. by   RENTANURSE
    Well, Angus, I haven't found a downside yet. I have been a homecare/staff releif/agency nurse for years(aka rentanurse) and have taken a f/t position in a male maxi-max psychiatric lockdown prison unit. These guys are CERTIFIABLE! They are compulsive liars,murderers,rapists,kidnappers, recidivistically larcinous, baby-rapers, serial offenders of all kinds. And they are people. Most of them are evil incarnate. Every once in a while we get the repeat feloneous DWI offender. I treat them as I would any other client; compassion,hope, but in a no-nonsense way. I have been known to ask them if the want some cheese with their whine when they complain to me about a DOCS problem. They know I will take no guff from them and in their own warped way respect me for it. I treat each one the same-no favorites.(there are no criminals in jail... just law abiding citizens who were wrongly accused..HA!) :chuckle
    Anyway,how do I keep my sanity? I'm out here... they are in there... all is right with the world!
    God Bless!
    Terry
  4. by   Rambo-ette
    I have worked in several maximum security prisons over the years, and am now at a "megajail". I find that this is the area that I love the best. Yes, it is difficult, you have to get used to the paramilitary atmosphere, and no, you don't trust inmates! The first thing that you learn is how to relate in the correctional environment. It is a real paradigm shift to come into the prison/jail system from the free world, because we learn that medical does not come first in a correctional setting: security comes first and foremost. If you are professional at all times, honest and straightforward, you gain the respect of both the inmates and the security staff.
    Hope this helps. P.S. I am the administrator at my jail, but started out on weekends as an infirmary nurse in a max prison.
    good luck.

    :roll
  5. by   traumamomma
    It will be interesting.

    I once heard a psychiatrist say, "I'm convinced if aliens came down and landed on this building, and looked around, they would get in their space ship and just keep on going.........."

    The environment builds a certain amount of comraderie, you will have a stronger bond with your co-workers. You will see and hear the strangest things.

    As far as custodial populations, I would definitely work with males.
  6. by   Rambo-ette
    As with any nursing job, there are down sides. Here are a few:
    1) If you are working for a private contract medical company, you face the non-renewal/cancellation of the contract every few years. Some systems award to the lowest bidder, which as we all know carries it's own problems. The business of correctional health care can be extremely competitive. As a staff employee you don't necessarily face losing your job, but you risk having to re-apply and be hired by a new employer periodically. As an administrative/management employee, you may face the necessity of job hunting or relocating in order to stay with the same company.
    2) Many prisons/jails carry NCCHC/ACA accreditations. If you are in a well run, well managed site, this is a good thing because it implies a certain level of professionalism in the institution; If it is a poorly managed site (both corrections and medical) it can be a nightmare of paperwork and impossible requirements.
    3) Inmates are the most litigious members of our society and will sue at the drop of a hat, because they can. This creates a nightmarish amount of documentation and paperwork in order to keep yourself covered. I urge any nurse who wishes to specialize in corrections to make it a point to learn the standards for correctional health care, and to be an excellent document-er. If this is not your strong point, you may want to reconsider.
    4) You need a tough skin to endure the attitudes of many inmates and security personnel. Cultivate a professional, no-nonsense manner and you'll do fine.
    5) We do think of all inmates as people needing health care, but you may work with limited resources and strict managed care-type guidelines which impact the ability to do many things for inmates. Something as simple as providing a special walking shoe for an inmate may turn into an administrative nightmare due to both corrrections and medical rules.
    6) You willl need an open mind and a broad knowledge of nursing, as we see everything that there is to see medically, from OB to diabetes, to aids.
    7) These "problems" are overcome by your dedication to providing professional health care and your attention to detail and committment to continuous learning. Correctional nursing is a dynamic, ever changing specialty. You will never be bored!
  7. by   l.rae
    Agnus, you will only know if you try it, l did a few shift thruss an agency a few years ago, found it fascinating but not my niche...the good thing about nursing is...there are a lot of things to try and if you don't like it..there is always something else...l personally don't think you can really know until you give it a whirl.....it's a personal preference...I love ER....and yes you tend to get alot of cynasism(sp) in these types of areas but it is mostly coping mechanisms.....so many pple say...''l could never do ER''...like l said...just try it....good luck and let us know what u decide......LR
  8. by   JailRN
    Angus, I have been a jail nurse for about 3.5 years and I LOVE IT. The inmates, for the most part, want what the nurse has (their drugs_ and know that if they get too wound up where they can't hear me call their names, they will not receive their medication. Also , if things really get out of hand, they will be sent to the county jail, where they don't want to go. NUT< like I tell prospective employees, if cockroaches, the F$#$ word, the smell of smelly feet, underarms and genitals that haven't been washed in days bother you, this might not be the place you want to work. Crazy, yes, they're mostly all crazy, sane people don't commit most crimes. I'm not a cop, judge or jury and I don't judge them, but it's also not my job to coddle them. this is a jail and when they complain about the accommodations, the satndard answer is this isn't the hilton, sorry. Good luck.
  9. by   Peeps Mcarthur
    Quoted from Traumamama

    The environment builds a certain amount of comraderie, you will have a stronger bond with your co-workers. You will see and hear the strangest things.
    From what experience do you draw those observations?

    Just curious because I haven't seen you show any knowledge of nursing yet.

    I was wondering if you are a nurse, an inmate, or a guard.
  10. by   Orca
    I have developed a strong rapport with many of the custody staff at my facility. I suppose that it helps that I was once a correctional officer myself in another system before going into nursing, and have an appreciation of both their jobs and their viewpoints.

    One thing that puts custody staff off is if a nurse appears to be continually taking sides with inmates. Our profession is by nature one of caring and seeing to the needs of others, and we are trained to be patient advocates. In the prison environment, you must be very sure that you are not being taken on one gigantic ride before doing much advocating. You are generally dealing with professional manipulators and, in my observation, sex offenders can be among the most charming and the quickest to win people over.

    One officer at my prison who frequently draws hospital security duty talked about some of the nurses at the hospital we send inmates to if they need outside care. They constantly question the need for restraints, the need to keep visitors out of the room, and the need for close surveillance. They display a total disregard for security concerns, and treat the officers as if they are uncaring ogres who gain pleasure out of restricting the privileges of others. Little do they know that the person whose security measures they are questioning may be a serial rapist, child molester or murderer, or that the visitor may be smuggling in drugs or weapons.

    All things considered, I had rather err on the side of safety when dealing with inmates. Show the officers that you don't always buy everything that inmates tell you (which is often their initial perception), and you may find them more accepting.
  11. by   gojack
    Of course there is a 'downside' to nursing in a concentration camp. Did it in Texas for the worst 5 weeks of my life. You have to depend on a gang to protect you from another gang. Still have nightmares of all those big White rednecks on horses patrolling the 'Blackies' in the field. If this is your cup of tea?, then you belong where you will be.......
  12. by   NurseWeasel
    Games Criminals Play: How You Can Profit by Knowing Them
    by Bud Allen & Diana Bosta

    Read this book if you have any inclination toward corrections. These are not fairy tales, this stuff really happens. The biggest danger for any staff in a correctional setting is MANIPULATION by the inmates.

    If you are mentally and emotionally strong, have good self-esteem and can stand up to conmen and bullies, you should do fine. If you will be perceived as weak or gullible or that you have a low self esteem, you're more than likely toast.

    This comment comes from a former DOC worker (not as a nurse, though). I did not leave because of the inmates - them, I could handle. I left because of the sheer monotony of the secretarial job, the beaurocracy, and *some* managers' attitudes. Almost 5 years was plenty for me. I'm off to explore the wide, wide world of nursing!
  13. by   Orca
    In the past two months, we have lost a nurse, an infirmary security officer and an infirmary case manager because they were "compromised" by inmates. In most cases, the problem involved unauthorized correspondence while off duty (as far as I know, none involved direct sexual contact, although one case allegedly involved phone sex).

    One has to wonder how gullible one must be to get sucked into something like this. It is widely known that all telephone calls by inmates are monitored at my facility. There is one person whose sole job it is to review recordings of inmate telephone calls.
  14. by   andreesres
    I am fairly new to correctional nursing (2 years in) and I couldn't like it more if I tried. I have my masters in nursing and have myriad experiences from NICU to case management and I actually took a HUGE cut in pay to work in corrections.
    Minnesota has a really good training "academy" that teaches that the most essential thing for a successfull career in corrections is to be "firm, fair and consistant". I completely agree. Many offenders (the name du jour in MN) have remarked that they appreciate that I "keep it real" and the officers also appreciate that I call a spade a spade. I completely agree that you do form a comraderie with officers and "line staff" especially if you are sensitive to security concerns. I happen to enjoy the paramilitary set up of prison work and have fully bought into the "us vs. them" mentality. Of course I work in a supermax so my clients are pretty awful.
    The highlight of my job is the irreverence with which I can approach my work. I laugh more at what I experience now than I ever have. (i.e. "my pain is at a 4 3/4 can I have Vicodin for that? No what about 5 1/2?") There are days that are so chaotic that they completely satisfy my adrenalin needs (yup former ER experience). And there is opportunity to teach, assess and basically be as good a nurse as you want to be.
    The downsides are the same as most teaching hospitals. Politics, politics, politics. Add to the mix limited access to offenders and having to deal with really smelly disrespectful people and you have an average day. I joke around that I see more penises in a day than the average urologist. And the mouth checks! Creative is not better and I'm not sure that no teeth might not be better than the dentition I have to look at.
    I hope this helps. I really do love my job and I never thought I would. Give it a try.

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