I started my first career in Nigeria as a state prosecutor. Coming to the United States, I decided to return to school to obtain a BSN. When I told my husband, he said, “Wow, that’s a huge change, moving from the liberal arts to science!” As the program commenced, I began comparing the legal and nursing professions.
As a state prosecutor, I perused police case files brought to my office, the department of public prosecution (DPP), to ascertain if there was a prima facie case to charge the suspect with the commission of an offense. Prima facie means the presence of sufficient evidence from the suspect’s actions that will likely secure a conviction at trial provided there is no contradicting evidence. Prosecutors, like nurses, also follow a process. This process begins with determining the offense the suspect may have committed, followed by planning how to proceed with the case.
The nursing process that guides the registered nurse in providing customized care and prioritizing problem areas is similar to this prosecuting process.
The nursing assessment consists of a physical examination and obtaining data from the patient’s health history, which is analyzed to help formulate customized care.
Perusing police case files is similar to patient assessment. Perusing means examining the file to obtain the suspect’s criminal history as well as actions that fulfill the components of the alleged offense. The components of the offense refer to acts of the suspect that make up the alleged offense. For example, in Nigeria, someone can be charged with burglary if the state prosecutor has evidence that the suspect forcefully broke into a home and took property without the express or implied consent of the owner. These are the components of the offense: forcefully breaking in, and taking property without some form of consent from the owner.
Ingredients can be compared to signs and symptoms, while health history is similar to criminal history.
This is the nurse’s clinical judgment about the client’s response to actual or potential health conditions or needs. The nursing diagnosis is comparable to when the prosecutor determines the offense the suspect may have committed. The North American Nursing Diagnosis Association International (NANDA-I ) guides the nurses in doing this while in Nigeria, the Criminal Procedure Act guides the prosecutor.
Planning is the next step after diagnosis. Here, the nurse sets out goals (both short and long term) which are measurable and achievable for the patient based on the nursing diagnosis. The nurse outlines interventions to determine how the goals would be achieved and NANDA-I is also helpful here.
For the prosecutor, after identifying the offense, a decision is made as to the court that has jurisdiction. A plan is made on how the case will be prosecuted and this includes determining how many counts to charge, the evidence needed, the number of witnesses to call, interviewing these witnesses and obtaining any needed exhibits. The Nigerian Evidence Act is helpful here.
For both professions, this stage leads to the implementation stage.
The nurse carries out the interventions that were planned and decides if delegation is required. The nurse’s ability to delegate appears to be the main difference from the prosecuting process. For a Prosecutor, there is no delegation but another prosecutor could be assigned the case due to reasons of ill –health or other reasons.
The prosecutor in the implementation stage would file the case in court and commence trial by calling witnesses and presenting evidence as planned. At the conclusion, the defense presents their own witnesses and the prosecutor must be prepared to cross-examine them.
An evaluation would then be next.
Evaluation is needed in both processes to identify areas that require adjustments. The nurse assesses the patient’s response to the interventions provided, to determine if the plan should be maintained or adjusted. While the prosecutor weighs each witness testimony and determines its effect on the case. Does it help or weaken the case? Is there a need to call additional witnesses, bring in more evidence, or even withdraw or substitute this charge?
Documentation plays a crucial part in both professions. In the nursing process, this is done in the patient’s chart and provides continuity of care because other healthcare professionals involved in patient care are able to assess what has been done. In the prosecuting process, documentation is made in the case file and includes the evidence that substantiates the alleged offense, the witnesses to be called, testimonies in court and court remarks. The goal is to make it easier for anyone looking through the case file to obtain basic information to continue the case. The absence of documentation in both processes shows that what ought to have been done was not done.
It is interesting how one can find a connection between professions that appear unrelated at first.
If you have found some similarities between your first career and nursing, I would love to hear about it. Leave your comments below.