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Seeking advice of correctional nurses

Correctional   (2,017 Views 12 Comments)
by Jaki Jaki (New Member) New Member

Jaki has 8 years experience and specializes in Med/Surg, Orthopedics, and Rehab.

794 Profile Views; 8 Posts

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Hey there! I'm a CNA with about 8 years experience who also happens to be in her last semester of school for Practical Nursing. I've pretty much always been the one who got stuck doing the brunt work, dirty jobs, or tasks nobody else accepted and have learned to use this to my advantage over the years. Ive also noticed in my work and educational interactions that alot of supposedly "open minded" people really aren't as open as they'd like to think. I have heard classmates and coworkers belittle patients who were mentally ill, drug users, promiscuous, etc. talking down about them in report as if thier personal judgements and transgressions against these people was worth two cents (it isn't). My theory is that the kind of nurses who judge and belittle patients or give them attitude under the table must not be self aware enough to realize they're only making thier own jobs harder.

I feel like being truly open minded and neutral is more of a curse than a blessing because not picking a side means nobody among your peer group will like or trust you. I'm the one nobody likes because I'll yawn or sit there stone faced while you gripe to me about a patient, spewing venom about thier lifestyle while not knowing how easily you'd do the same sorts of things they did if you were misfortunate enough to have to. I could easily see myself working with compromised populations in a setting where other nurses would perhaps rather not be, such as community std type clinic, correctional nursing, or detox unit.

Hopefully some seasoned nurses will comment and share stories or let me know how I can make myself a more valuable baby nurse in pursuit of these goals? :)

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traumaRUs has 27 years experience as a MSN, APRN and specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU.

143 Articles; 20,816 Posts; 187,653 Profile Views

Moved to correctional nursing

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Orca has 24 years experience as a ADN, ASN, RN and specializes in Corrections, psychiatry, rehab, LTC.

1,784 Posts; 25,987 Profile Views

If you are looking for a population that a lot of people had rather not be bothered with, corrections may well be your niche. Histories of criminal behavior, substance abuse, drug trafficking, gang activity, you name it - welcome to my neighborhood. I have always found a degree of satisfaction in working with a population that most of society had rather forget. Mine is not what most people would consider a normal work environment, yet I have encountered things here that I could have gone an entire career in conventional medicine and never experienced. You also learn how to function without the latest drugs and equipment, because government agencies are seldom funded well enough to have them - even without the stigma of that funding being for the support of inmates.

I don't see much judgment here. Every person that we see in clinics, at pill line or in sick call has earned his way in here somehow. It goes without saying that they are all convicted criminals. I make it a point not to try to find out what they are doing time for, because I don't want that knowledge to affect the way that I interact with them or the kind of care that I provide.

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174 Posts; 1,423 Profile Views

In California, you won't know what crimes the inmates have committed as this information is not in the electric medical records system. I don't want to know and I treat everyone the same. Respect goes a long way in prison s d so does being consistent.

But one must realize were they work and the potential danger of the prison system. Riots , murders, staff assauls and batteries....drug overdoses......I have seen it all. Prison is never the same monotonous experience day after day. It is exciting and that's why I will retire from the department of corrections.

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22 Posts; 1,536 Profile Views

Respect is a two-way street. When I was working corrections, I probably got more respect from inmates than I ever do with the patients I have now (I work in an Ambulatory Care unit in a large metro hospital). The patients I work with now treat me like crap! The hardened criminals actually respected me. People talk smack about Correctional Nursing, but I loved it. In my clinic now, I just book appointments and refill meds (the boring stuff). I actually felt like a real nurse in the prison.

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478 Posts; 4,919 Profile Views

On 12/12/2018 at 12:14 AM, Jaki said:

Hey there! I'm a CNA with about 8 years experience who also happens to be in her last semester of school for Practical Nursing. I've pretty much always been the one who got stuck doing the brunt work, dirty jobs, or tasks nobody else accepted and have learned to use this to my advantage over the years. Ive also noticed in my work and educational interactions that alot of supposedly "open minded" people really aren't as open as they'd like to think. I have heard classmates and coworkers belittle patients who were mentally ill, drug users, promiscuous, etc. talking down about them in report as if thier personal judgements and transgressions against these people was worth two cents (it isn't). My theory is that the kind of nurses who judge and belittle patients or give them attitude under the table must not be self aware enough to realize they're only making thier own jobs harder.

I feel like being truly open minded and neutral is more of a curse than a blessing because not picking a side means nobody among your peer group will like or trust you. I'm the one nobody likes because I'll yawn or sit there stone faced while you gripe to me about a patient, spewing venom about thier lifestyle while not knowing how easily you'd do the same sorts of things they did if you were misfortunate enough to have to. I could easily see myself working with compromised populations in a setting where other nurses would perhaps rather not be, such as community std type clinic, correctional nursing, or detox unit.

Hopefully some seasoned nurses will comment and share stories or let me know how I can make myself a more valuable baby nurse in pursuit of these goals? 🙂

I work in corrections and it is only RNs/LVNs. No MAs. As for the rest it is trickle down; we share medical offices, as an RN I get bumped by providers, LVNs bumped by me...just the hierarchy...that being said nobody treats anyone 'lesser than, just that LVNs cannot do sick call so providers and RNs need desktop 1st.

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MelodyNelson has 2 years experience and specializes in corrections.

32 Posts; 3,276 Profile Views

Just like judging your patients is definitely not a good thing, judging your coworkers or potential coworkers is not a good thing either.   It is perfectly OK to redirect the person that is being unprofessional by telling you their opinion of their patient. You for sure, do not need to join them in that bad practice.   In corrections, it is  EXTREMELY important to have your coworker's back, and for them to have your back.  Think of them as your brother or sister.   Do you like everything about your siblings?  Probably not, but hopefully you will still be loyal to each other.  Splitting staff is a very common method of manipulation by the inmates.  Inmates scan you!  If they detect a "Hollier than thou" (or "More open minded than thou") attitude, they will zero in on you.  Inmates can sniff division a mile away and they will use it to their advantage.  Plus, simply working in corrections changes you.  If your coworkers don't seem to be all cheerful and peppy, they have allowed the negative environment to grind them down.    It is tough to keep a good attitude over the years, you have to work hard, kind of like in a marriage in which after the initial whirlwind romance, you have to work hard to stay in love.    Don't judge people like that too harshly, their unprofessional attitudes are probably a coping mechanism, and while it is wrong, it is also very human.   Watch out, that might be you a couple of  years down the road!

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"nursy" has 40 years experience as a RN and specializes in ICU, ER, Home Health, Corrections, School Nurse.

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So your coworkers are being judgmental about their patients, and you are being judgmental about your coworkers.   While I agree that it is not really appropriate to be judgmental about anybody, most of the time it is just venting.  I've been a nurse for 40 years, and have heard all kinds of observations made by staff about their patients ( I worked ICU back in the 80 's with a lot of  AIDS/HIV patient among other things)  and in all those years, I've never seen the quality of care affected by personal opinions.  

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Orca has 24 years experience as a ADN, ASN, RN and specializes in Corrections, psychiatry, rehab, LTC.

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This is a peculiar work environment. It stands to reason that people who work here speak freely around those who understand it the most: Their coworkers. As nursy says, a lot of it is just venting. Don't overanalyze what you are hearing.

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33 Posts; 521 Profile Views

I find myself way to trusting and way too caring, and find that finding out what the inmates are in for helps me remember where I am and to be careful.  It does not make me judge, or treat them differently.  I enjoy my work, and enjoy my patients, and don't think I could make that change if I wanted to.

Just make sure your orientation is good, and don't let them throw you out there by yourself until you feel you are ready.  Once they stick you out there, and you find you need help, it is hard to get (or, that's how it was in my experience).

I don't appreciate other nurses belittling patient's either, but that has not been my experience in corrections.  It can be hard to find fun here, and you have to have a good sense of humor and find it where you can.

Your coworkers need to have your back, and you need to have theirs.  The other nurses are right, there is no room for division.

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Orca has 24 years experience as a ADN, ASN, RN and specializes in Corrections, psychiatry, rehab, LTC.

1,784 Posts; 25,987 Profile Views

On ‎3‎/‎11‎/‎2019 at 8:35 AM, Trampledunderfoot said:

I find myself way to trusting and way too caring, and find that finding out what the inmates are in for helps me remember where I am and to be careful.  It does not make me judge, or treat them differently. 

I don't recommend this approach. As much as people say that it doesn't affect their interactions, knowing that a particular inmate is in for an especially heinous crime can trigger an emotional reaction. I make it a point not to find out what an inmate is in for. All of them have earned their way in here in one way or another. The high fences and razor wire are completely sufficient to remind me where I am and who I am dealing with.

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174 Posts; 1,423 Profile Views

I agree.  It's best not to know.  The electric fence around the prison tells me all I need to know.

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