i'm currently enrolled in vocational nursing school and one of our projects is to research information, data, salary, statistics etc on a field we are interested in.
i chose correctional nursing! :d being a corrections nurse sounds like a very interesting and different experience that i would love to learn more about after reading other posts and articles.
i was wondering if there are any current or past correctional nurses @ allnurses who would be so kind to help me out =] i want to know all about your experiences and ask you questions via email or phone! maybe even in person if you're in the orange county, ca area!
please send me a private message if you don't mind being asked questions regarding your job duties, stories, and salary! it would really benefit my project
for other correctional nurses who would rather answer on here, i have a few questions!
1. what brought you to become a corrections nurse?
i disliked the hospital environment. i wanted a niche-specialty that would allow me more autonomy. correctional nursing offers a great deal of autonomy for a nurse, particularly when the facility is government-operated as opposed to a private company operated prison healthcare unit within a correctional facility.
2. what was going through your head on your first day, or what were your fears, if any?
i was terrified of the inmates. i was terrified of the violence and how i would respond. i was terrified i was ruining my future career prospects by leaving acute care.
3. how would you compare a corrections facility to a hospital?
the environments are very different. in a hospital, you have a patient assignment, and you deal with higher acuity and the responsibility that brings all day. you have more resources and more assistance from others if you need help. in the prison, unless you are in a prison acute care infirmery, you do not have a patient assignment and you may be the only nurse or medical staff on duty, depending on the shift. you, and maybe a few other nurses are responsible for running a nurse-line sick-call type office where inmates come in and are assessed for their complaints. as a nurse you act as their primary care provider in many ways. you screen and filter what gets to the md. in my facility we have a myriad of standing orders/protocols for just about every ailment/complaint, so the nurse can give out medications/treatments without having to call a doc very much. you see/handle/do everything - medical complaints, vision exams, audiology tests, pfts, ekgs, everything (depending on your facility). you schedule inmates with the doc when you think it's necessary.
so in the hospital you may have to call an md for a medication & you don't have to do that as much in corrections. this leads to a risk of exceeding your nursing scope of practice. i see exceeding scope as the most significant risk in corrections & i check myself for this daily. because correctional medical facilities are not joint commission accredited, and because surveys/audits occur less often, there is a risk of practices becoming relaxed and out of compliance with regulations or standards of practice. these offices are their own little universes with little oversight and that can get risky. correctional medical facilities can be ncchc (national commission on correctional health care) accredited, but they aren't audited enough, imo.
you see a certain set of problems that occur more often in correctional patients. you have to inform inmates they have tested positive for hepatitis c and what this means for them. you see cases of jaundice all the time. you see cases of rhabdomyolysis due to excessive workouts. you have to deal with requests for lower bunk and shave waivers from inmates (definately unique to corrections). you have to deal with inmates who have been raped. you respond to emergencies when officers have been assaulted by inmates, and then you have to treat the inmate who assaulted your co-worker, the officer. you deal with a lot of faking and lies from inmates and false cries of chest pain. any form you give an inmate is at high risk for being forged/sold for another inmate. you have to watch equipment and supplies and count everything every shift. for example, a single syringe is worth $$$ on the prison yard.
besides the routine clinic-type things you handle every day, there are the emergency calls that come over the radio. these usually consist of emergencies any ed nurse would see every day plus emergencies that occur more often in this patient population. drug ods are frequent. i will not leave my office without narcan and and a cpr mask in my pocket; i've had to use them too many times. assaults are frequent. stabbings occur, and they are scary. you have to respond to these emergencies, (at my facility, often alone, only nurse on duty), and act while officers are videotaping the incident. this brings a level of responsibility that can be frightening. think about an unconscious patient, down in a cell, running through your acls protocols, and knowing you are being videotaped and it's 'all on you' until the ambulance gets there. of course, we have a lot of violence in my facility, so i see this more than someone would in a minimum/medium security correctional environment.
4. crazy stories would be cool to hear!
i once worked a 23 hour shift when i was the only nurse on duty and two gangs were fighting and broke out in a riot. i've had over ten sudden patients - several who were stabbed or unconscious. nobody died. you know you are a correctional nurse when you respond to assaults and come home and try to get the chemical agents/pepper spray out of your clothing because some hit you in the wind and don't give it a second thought. this is why we make the big $!
any other information or tips based on your experiences!
if you chose correctional nursing, you've got to be secure in your own self-worth as a nurse. other nurses do not understand what we do, and we get little respect. you lose your acute-care skills, but you gain a set of skills unique to correctional nursing. there is a misconception that we pass pills and handle psych; that is not true. i would not recommend correctional nursing as a new graduate unless you have emt experience or similar emergency-type skills. although new grads may be alright in a minimum-security correctional environment. if a facility offered a new grad significant training and assurance the new nurse would not be alone on duty for a certain time period, it may be ok. my facility is staffed by rns only because lpns cannot do initial assessments and this is a core function of our job. some large facilities can utilize lpns depending on their staffing.
thanks so much :heartbeat