International Perspectives on Nursing Practice within the Criminal Justice Setting

Globe International World FlagsLorry, Pat Voermans and I gave a presentation about the new edition of the ANA Correctional Nursing: Scope and Standards of Professional Practice at the 13th Biennial International Conference on the Nurse’s Role in the Criminal Justice System in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan earlier this month.  Standards for nurses practicing in correctional settings in the United States have been available since 1985 (Schoenly, 2013).  If you are interested in learning more about the new ANA Scope and Standards, an earlier post described these in detail. In the discussion after the presentation we learned a lot about the role of correctional nurses in other countries and the standards that guide their practice.  To bring back some of the international flavor we experienced, here is a description of how correctional nurses in the United Kingdom (UK) are supported in their practice.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has established principles of nursing practice that apply to all settings in the United Kingdom (UK), including criminal justice settings. The Royal College of Nursing is similar to the American Nurses Association in that it is a membership based professional nursing organization that also represents nurses in collective bargaining.  In addition, the organization is committed to making patients, their families, colleagues and the general community aware of what to expect from professional nurses and so the principles have been widely disseminated.  The Principles of Nursing Practice promote these concepts:

  • Dignity
  • Accountability and partnership
  • Managing risk
  • Empowering patients
  • Communication and information governance
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Inter-professional working
  • Leadership in nursing practice

The Criminal Justice Forum is a committee within the Royal College of Nursing that addresses issues regarding nursing practice in criminal justice settings. The Royal College of Nursing has developed additional guidance for correctional nurses in applying the principles listed above to their practice.  In 2012 the group decided to build an online resource that details the application of the eight principles in criminal justice settings.  The website is described as a “one stop shop” for busy nurses in the field to access key information and best practices. The varied roles of nurses in the criminal justice system have been described and each principle has been referenced to a corresponding practice code or regulatory standard. For each standard a list of key websites and publications for nurses working in criminal justice settings is included.

Among the best practice examples of nursing in criminal justice settings are: a program developed to help offenders manage anxiety, guidance on aging and dementia in prison, a toolkit for older offenders,  a nurse led walk-in center for primary care, advice on caring for women with complex needs, and adaptation of a model for transitional care to a prison population. These best practice resources really showcase the incredible influence nurses have in caring for prisoners in the UK.

If you are interested in another country’s perspective on correctional health care and correctional nursing you only need to go to the RCN web site!  Chapters 1 and 19 in the Essentials of Correctional Nursing provide more information about the organizations that are contributing to the specialty of correctional nursing. The text can be ordered directly from the publisher and if you use Promo Code AF1209 the price is discounted by $15 off and shipping is free.


American Nurses Association (ANA). (2013). Correctional Nursing: Scope & Standards of Practice. Silver Springs, MD:

Royal College of Nursing. (2009) Health and nursing care in the criminal justice services: RCN guidance for nursing staff. Royal College of Nursing. London Accessed 10/15/2013 at

Schoenly, L. (2013) Chapter 1: The Context of Correctional Nursing.  In L. Schoenly & C.M. Knox (Eds.), Essentials of Correctional Nursing (pp.4). New York, NY: Springer Publishing

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