New grad in correctional nursing

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    I'm a new grad, just finished school in December, and was able to secure a position at a women's prison as my first nursing job, after looking for five months. I feel I've been thrown to the wolves. After only my 8th shift (5 days orientation) I was responsible for the infirmary with 35 patients, one LPN (who knew more than I did) and a nurses assistant. It was madness. I hope that it will get easier, but I'm still in shell shock. Every time I enter the prison I pray that I'll get through the shift, and when I exit I breath a sigh of relief. Not to mention that it's like stepping back 50 years ago with equipment that doesn't work half the time and no up to date computer system. Medical records are a mess.

    The hardest part right now for me is the criticism I'm getting from the other nurses for being 'too soft,' aka the 'sucker nurse.' I tend to give the inmates the benefit of the doubt when they come in complaining of an allergic reaction or whatever. I don't have 5, 10, 15 years of assessment experience, but I'm expected to be up to speed in a few days.

    I'm really struggling right now, and would welcome any nurses advice to me. I did well in nursing school and my clinicals, but nursing school is one thing and the real world of nursing is another. I'd like to practice compassionate nursing and using the therapeutic models that I've been taught, but those seem to be thrown out the window at my institution. I'm not sure what to do. I'm open to suggestions.
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    Prison nursing is a different kind of nursing. You have to be cautious in how you interact with inmates. Inmates will manipulate, you can't always believe what they say. Trust your assessment skills and if the inmate is displaying symptoms and you truly feel there is a concern treat accordingly. Firm, fair, and consistent is the best way to be. I feel I am a compassionate person but I also remember where I am and that my patients are also convicted criminals. There is a policy at our prison about being too "familiar" with the inmates. You can be caring but you must keep strict personal boundaries. I am respectful and to the point and most inmates appreciate that.
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    Thank you. I'm on a fast learning curve. Maybe in another few weeks I'll be able to better differentiate between the real sick patients and the manipulative ones. I'm not sure this is the best immersion method for a new graduate nurse, but it is what it is. So I'll do my best.
    janice_c67 likes this.
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    I worked in the hospital only 6 months before I went to corrections. So I'm still a fairly new graduate (less than a year experience) so sometimes it is hard to differentiate if the inmate is for real or just pulling something to get sent out to the hospital, but it will get easier. It sounds like you had a poor orientation, I oriented for 8 weeks and I still am getting help with things. Hope it gets better for you and that you enjoy corrections as much as I do!


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