Correctional Nurse Self-Care: Do You Have Your Oxygen Mask On?

Oxygen maskAt one point in my career I was in an airplane for business more than I liked. At that time, I could have probably filled in for the flight attendant in making the required safety announcement. I wish I had been on a flight with the wacky attendant in this video. It might have been more enjoyable!

One direction you will always hear from the flight attendant is to “place the oxygen mask over your own nose and mouth first” before assisting others. Of course, it makes perfect sense that you can’t be very helpful if you can’t breathe yourself! Fire rescue workers must first gear up before entering a burning house to rescue others. Nurses are also in a helping profession yet we can be the worst at following the principles of self-care so we are of benefit to others.

Being a Nurse is Stressful

Nurses, in general, are prone to personal, physical, and emotional stress due to the nature of the profession. Work stress and burn out among nurses has long been identified as hazards of the occupation often overlooked by practitioners themselves. Many environmental and role conditions contribute to work stress such as the long hours, physical labor, and inadequate staffing situations nurses often encounter. In addition, most nurses are in constant contact with human suffering and must maintain interpersonal work and patient relationships in the midst of an often turbulent environment. Added to this can be, in some organizational cultures, bullying and lateral violence among staff such as verbal aggression or incivility.

Being a Correctional Nurse is Especially Stressful

Correctional nurses contend with the added stressors of the correctional environment and patient population. Research into correctional officer stress has shed light on the occupational stressors of correctional nurses, as well. In particular, experts point to the continuing exposure to traumatic stressors in the correctional environment that creates an added burden to workers. This exposure includes actual and potential assault, witnessing and responding to inmate death, and the continual need to be hyper alert to physical harm and psychological manipulation. It is estimated that up to25% of those working in corrections meet criteria for a post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis.

Correctional Nurse Self-Care Plan

Have you ever thought of creating a nursing care plan for yourself? Mental health nurse, Joan Lorenz, suggests this method for stressed nurses. By creating a self-care plan, you can use the familiar nursing diagnoses of our profession to your advantage.  Here are some diagnoses to consider for your personal nursing care plan.

  • Altered nutrition
  • Anxiety
  • Ineffective individual coping
  • Knowledge deficit
  • Spiritual distress

Lorenz rightly suggests that many nurses see caring for themselves as somehow selfish. This attitude definitely needs adjusting! Like a flight attendant instructs “place the oxygen mask on yourself first”. A physically, mentally, and emotionally drained nurse is unable to meet the needs of patients and is unsafe in our risky environment. So, buckle yourself in to a self-care plan that keeps you at full capacity to do your job well!

Fellow nurse, Elizabeth Scala, over at Nursing from Within, is running an Art of Nursing program in May that can add a deep breath of fresh oxygen into your nursing career. Maybe this should be on your personal care plan.

Art of NursingClick here to view more details

How do you take care of yourself in the midst of work stress? Share your tips with our readers using the comments section of this post.

Photo Credit: © Kalim –

4 thoughts on “Correctional Nurse Self-Care: Do You Have Your Oxygen Mask On?

  1. Great post, Lorry. I love the use of the video within the article to share this point again. It’s so true- if we are running on empty, what do we have left to give? And thank you for the shout-out about the Art of Nursing 2.0; it’s shaping up to be an exceptional event! If anyone has questions they can reach me at (410) 929-0081 or support (at) elizabethscala (dot) com.


  2. Pingback: Correctional Nurse Self-Care: Wear That Secondary Trauma Protective Gear! | Essentials of Correctional Nursing

  3. Pingback: Correctional Nurse Self-Care: Preventing Compassion Fatigue | Essentials of Correctional Nursing

  4. Pingback: Correctional Nurse Self Care: Resilience | Essentials of Correctional Nursing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s