Correctional Nurse Goals for 2015: One Change that Makes All the Difference!

2014 end and 2015 way signsI love the start of anything new, don’t you? That’s why a new year and a brand new calendar can really brighten my spirits. Although I am not one to make resolutions, I am a big goal-setter. Do you have goals for your correctional nursing practice for 2015?

The Little Story that Changed My Life

Here is a short story I heard years ago that changed my life for the better. I try to remember it several times a year to help center my mental perspective. Have you heard a version of this before?

Two workman were approached by a bystander on a major construction site. They were both performing the same job and were asked what they were doing. The first one said, “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m laying brink.” The second one looked up from where he was crouched and off toward the sky. His response? “I’m building a cathedral.”

Two men doing the same job yet from a very different mental perspective. Which one do you think went home that night feeling like he was doing something that mattered? Which one left the worksite feeling satisfied with his lot in life?

What might you tell a visitor to your work place if they asked you what you do as a correctional nurse? Would you respond like the first workman and say “I pass pills and take sick call”? Or, would you say, “I optimize health, prevent illness and injury, and alleviate suffering.” That last answer comes from the definition of correctional nursing, by the way.

It is All About Perspective

Yes, both those workman were doing the same thing and both had an honest response. And, both the options for describing your work as a correctional nurse would be true…..but what a difference in perspective. The first perspective is of activity while the second perspective is about purpose. Thinking about purpose in our day-to-day work provides the meaning and satisfaction that makes it worth the extra effort.

I have often said that most of us become nurses to help those in need and that there is not a needier patient population than inmates. So, the real effort in the correctional specialty is often to mentally balance the patient-focused purpose of our work with the ever-present struggles of a needy patient population in a challenging environment. It can really get you down.

Mind Your Mind

So, that comes to my first suggested goal for 2015 – Mind Your Mind. What I mean by that is to keep tabs on your attitude toward your work. This is an important goal no matter where you work but it can be a real battle in the correctional environment. In case you haven’t noticed, jails and prisons are not happy places. Most people, including some of our officer colleagues (!), don’t want to be there. Hanging around with criminals all day can be a real downer. Plus, it is always necessary to be on guard for possible physical, emotional, or mental harm. No wonder you are exhausted as you walk out the sally port to the parking lot.

Take Action Right Now on This Goal

I hope you are convinced that keeping a positive mental perspective is a worthy goal for your correctional nursing practice this year. However, this quote says it all:

“A goal without a plan is just a wish” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

So, here are some action steps to start your “Mind Your Mind” plan:

  • Establish a way to regularly remind yourself of your professional purpose. Maybe you can have it on a post-it note on your car dashboard so you can recite it on the way to work in the morning.
  • On your walk from the medical unit to the facility exit, see if you can list all the ways that you improved health, prevented illness and injury, and alleviated suffering during your shift.
  • On your way home, mentally close the door on all that is going on at the facility so you can truly engage with family and friend and rest during your time away from work.
  • Get some form of regular mild exercise like walking or biking to help your mental perspective.
  • Develop a plan to get the rest you need to be both alert and in a good mental perspective when you are at work.

This one change can make all the difference – changing your perspective. Will you be building a cathedral or merely laying bricks in your correctional nursing practice in 2015? I hope you will join me in cathedral building!

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7 thoughts on “Correctional Nurse Goals for 2015: One Change that Makes All the Difference!

  1. In addition to your sage advice, it may help to remember that our standards of practice and code of ethics require a professional mindset that is optimal and not optional. We are accountable at all times for the attitude we choose.

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  2. This is a great post, and a sad reminder about how easy it is for a place like jail or prison can get to one, and not only from unhappy people in an unhappy place, but conservatively, in an oft time unjust and unequal environment. Nurses’ bear witness in these settings, and often it goes beyond the self-attitude adjustment. Definitely, self-care is a top priority, in any nursing job. Not easy when there is mandatory overtime, working in a facility as the only nurse, making potential life and death decisions while being rushed around by custody, custody argues your decision or even vetoes it and doesn’t want to make another ED trip, your administrator sides with custody, even being told to suck it up and come to work sick.

    There are ways and means to address some of the other more egregious things nurses may see, that need addressing with a keen eye toward realism. Ethical dilemmas, Moral Distress, Compassion Fatigue, Breaking the Code of Silence. Being a civilian in these settings and feeling like someone’s ‘got your back’ is paramount, be that your administrator, the Sheriff or Warden, the Sergeant on duty, or your coworker nurse. Becoming jaded or mean spirited and hateful lead us to run the risk of faulty decision making or worse, letting custody run the medical department. Thanks for providing a place to speak these truths.

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    • Wow, Marsha, you really nailed it with the description of our challenging environment! Kudos! I think the first step is to realize all of these components are affecting our perspective. Even knowing that others struggle with the same issues can help. We have an opportunity to do much good where we are but it can wear you down if you aren’t mindful of it.

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  3. Thank you Lorry, for the words of wisdom for the new year. I really like the quote “A goal without a plan is just a wish”. Wishes can be forgotten but plans are alive with action and changes as we go along the road to building the cathedral.

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