What's Correctional Nursing Like?

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    I am a nursing student-to-be (still getting those prerequsites out of the way) and have often wondered what it would be like to work in a prison as a nurse. How are you treated by the inmates? All the documentaries I've seen regarding prison life portray a sad existence and it doesn't seem the working conditions would be very pleasant. The reason I'm interested is that the state correctional authority here in Georgia advertises numerous RN openings and they seem to have decent pay and excellent State benefits.
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    I assume from your post you are going into RN school. Where i work the RN's duties are mostly paper work, emergency care that are sent to the medical unit and care of the inmates in the infirmary. The LPNs work the actually housing units of the inmates. Each shift is a bit different for the RN who acts as a charge nurse. Days and Evenings take off doctors orders placing them on the MARs and on the pharmacy order form, Days tracks the treatments done by the LPNs evenings track the Sick call done by the LPNs. Nights triage the sick call request to go either on the nurses sick list or the doctor's, answer the complaint forms submitted by the inmates and helps with the lab (labs are usually done by an LPN, but the RN helps when she's overloaded), and does chart review on the orders, MARs and pharmacy order forms.
    It's an exciting career, no two days are ever the same! I've been told by a nurse that use to work in the ER that correctional nursing was similar in that you never knew what to expect from one day to the next. We've had staff injuried by the inmates and have to care for them as well.
    You mentioned documentation stating it was a sad atmosphere. From the inmate point of view, I'm sure it is. The key for me is not to get emotionally involved. I keep in my mind that these are men that have killed and raped. They're there for life, either to die from natural causes, have a death sentence or are killed in prison. Either way they are not going anywhere soon. I'm professional in the care I administer, yet stern and consistent in the way i administer care. I do know favors for any inmate, I don't give them an inch for they will take a mile or more if given half the chance, and then you're standing in the unemployment line!
    All in all I love what I do and wouldn't go back to caring for normal "free" people on the street.
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    Originally posted by CarolM:
    I am a nursing student-to-be (still getting those prerequsites out of the way) and have often wondered what it would be like to work in a prison as a nurse. How are you treated by the inmates? All the documentaries I've seen regarding prison life portray a sad existence and it doesn't seem the working conditions would be very pleasant. The reason I'm interested is that the state correctional authority here in Georgia advertises numerous RN openings and they seem to have decent pay and excellent State benefits.
    Correctional Medicine is by far the most facinating work environment I have ever been in. The variety of things you see to the officers you work with, there is never a boring moment. I enjoy what I do and love to talk about it and I'm always looking for ways to improve, e-mail me.

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    Hi CarolM, I have worked in the prison system here in RI for about a year now. I must say that it is a very unique type of nursing. I work in an intake facility (like the county jail for all of RI) so we see people right off the street......OH the stories we hear!!! Where else can you work with patients who are actively psychotic, withdrawing from alcohol or drugs, homeless, injured in altercations with police or others, as well as maintaining and continuing care for the inmates who are already in custody. And then there's the emergency situations... a seizure, c/o chest pains, altercations. Because there is not always an MD around, I have learned to rely (and trust) my assessment skills more than I ever had to when I worked in a hospital. Believe it or not, some of these inmates lie, and c/o chest pain or other symptoms may be an attempt to get a hospital trip to make an escape attempt or just for a change of scenery! You must never forget the environment in which you work, not to judge the patients, but to know that they are not there for good behavior and be fair and professional. If this field continues to interest you, I would recommend it!! Email me with any questions you may have!!


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