Remembering Meaningful Milestones

ncchc-40th-celebrationThe National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) held its national conference in Las Vegas last week (October 24th through the 26th).  For the over 1600 attendees, it was a recognition of the profession of correctional health care and the path from the beginning to present day.

40 Years of Educational Offerings

For 40 years, NCCHC has been offering educational opportunities during four educational sessions each year. Edward Harrison CCHP, former NCCHC president was at this conference to bestow some awards and meet friends. His words reflect some of the highlights accomplished along the way.

  • Correctional health care providers were caregivers for AIDS patients before the disease had a name and before many in community health care settings overcame their fear of the disease.
  • Although decades ago telemedicine was widely promoted throughout the country, it advanced in correctional health settings more so than in many community environments.
  • Treating sexually transmitted and other infectious diseases in the community often relies on the interventions provided patients in the correctional system .
  • Correctional systems picked up the slack when community mental health programs lost their funding.
  • Health care for all, regardless of one’s ability to pay, was the established practice in corrections 30 years before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

During the conference the foundation of correctional health and the early leaders were recognized.  To add to our recognitions, nothing is more noteworthy than our next celebrated milestone.

Estelle vs Gamble- 40 Years Ago

The 40 year milestone of this court case, which is considered the basis for correctional healthcare, forces us to reflect on the advancement of quality care that today is provided across the country to all our detainees. This court case forced everyone to look at care in the jails and prisons across the country and build health care delivery systems that were comprised of qualified health professionals, identified illness, treated disease and prevented harm and suffering.

Estelle vs Gamble is a case brought forward by a prisoner in Texas in 1976. Even though the state “lost” the case, the decisions by the courts provided the foundation for care of all prisoners and the basis of deliberate indifference. During initial orientation, each new employee in correctional health care hears about Estelle vs Gamble and learns that detainees have:

  • The right to access health care in all settings.
  • The right to a professional medical opinion
  • The right to the care that is ordered.

The first standard in the NCCHC’s Accreditation Standards is “Access to Care”. The discussion states that “this standard intends to ensure that inmates have access to care to meet their serious health needs and is the principle on which all National Commission on Correctional Health Care standards are based. It is also the basic principle established by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1976 landmark case Estelle v. Gamble.” (A-01, 2014 standards, page 3)

Remembering the foundations of correctional health, will provide us with a vision that expands the quality of health care and integrates us into the communities in which we practice.

Certified Correctional Health Professional (CCHP) for 25 Years

The third celebration was to honor the 25 years that the special certification for correctional health professional has been in place. Before 1991, a group of correctional health leaders, worked to develop a test that would reflect the unique challenges and foundation upon which correctional health is practiced across the country. Other health care specialties already had in place specific  certifications, such as ICU nurses, emergency nurses, IV nurses and some mental health specialties. These certifications recognize the knowledge base and competencies required in a specific field or specialty area of practice.

The first CCHP exam was in 1991 and was a take home exam with multiple choice and essay questions. At the conference, we honored 17 CCHP’s who completed the test in 1991 and are still certified today.

As the years have progressed, the test has expanded to a proctored exam at various conferences and sites.  Also other exams for specialties within correctional health have been developed. After you obtain your CCHP certification you may add to your credentials by taking a specialty exam. These include the CCHP-RN, CCHP-Physician, CCHP-Mental Health and CCHP-Advanced.  Achieving professional certification is the surest way to demonstrate that you have the qualifications and expertise to meet the challenges of delivering correctional health care in any setting.

As we go through our daily work, it is good to take time to reflect on how we achieved this proud and important professional career, and all the people who came before us and showed the dedication and leadership to improve care and show us the way.

Do have a reflection on the history of correctional health care that you would like to share? Please reply in the comments sections of this post.

Read more about legal foundations of correctional health care and the professional organizations that support correctional nursing in our book the Essentials of Correctional Nursing. Order a copy directly from the publisher or from Amazon today!

Photo Credit: NCCHC,org, education and conferences link

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