Correctional nurses face a daily struggle to care for their patients while delivering much-needed healthcare in a restricted environment where they may also fear for their own personal safety. How can nurses truly care for and care about their inmate patients? This is a question many of us in the specialty grapple with as we try to elevate the professional status of correctional nursing. Caring has been described as the essence of professional nursing practice, therefore we must establish the characteristics of this concept as it is enacted in the criminal justice system.
Weiskopf studied nurses’ experience of caring for inmate patients and discovered a number of limitations in our setting . The cultures of custody and caring often clash as mentioned in an earlier post. Nurses in this study described the need to negotiate boundaries between these cultures and establish relationship with custody staff in order to be effective. One surprising finding of the study was the extent to which the negative attitudes and behaviors of other nursing staff affected nurses who were attempting to provide compassionate nursing care.
Many nurses working behind bars feel an obligation to care and often struggle to find ways to do this in a hostile environment. Here are some suggested ways nurses enact caring behaviors in corrections:
• Educating patients about their health conditions and self-care principles
• Maintaining a nurse-patient relationship that is within the helpful zone of professional boundaries
• Advocating for the health care needs of a patient when necessary
• Showing compassion and respect
• Presenting a non-judgmental manner
• Listening to what the patient is saying
• Helping patients through a difficult situation
Have you found it difficult to care for patients in the criminal justice system? Share your thoughts in the comments section of this post.
Read more about caring in correctional nursing practice in Chapter 2: Ethical Principles for Correctional Nursing from Essentials of Correctional Nursing. Order your copy directly from the publisher.
Photo Credit: © Junial Enterprises – Fotolia.com