FROM THE PREFACE:
The Essentials of Correctional Nursing reviews the body of knowledge and practice standards that define the specialty of correctional nursing. The text also describes the health care needs of the youth, men and women who are incarcerated in jails, prisons, and detention centers across the country. This is a population that is disenfranchised from society, often stigmatized and invisible to the general community.
The intent of the book is to support correctional nurses by providing guidance and resources about the best practices to deliver nursing care that reduces suffering and improves the quality of life for incarcerated individuals, their families and the community at large. Nurses who work in other settings also encounter patients who are incarcerated or who have been incarcerated. These settings include emergency departments, specialty clinics, hospitals, psychiatric treatment units, community health clinics, substance abuse treatment programs and long term care settings. Explanations and resources are provided in the book so that nurses in other settings are comfortable assessing and responding to the health needs of these patients. Students in graduate and undergraduate nursing programs may use the text to prepare for a learning experience in the correctional setting or to understand health care needs of this population in relation to community health.
Correctional nursing practice is complex. Nearly 1 out of every 100 people in the United States is incarcerated in a jail, prison or juvenile detention facility. Health needs of this population are characterized by disproportionate rates of mental illness, alcohol and drug dependence, victimization, traumatic injury, and both chronic and infectious disease. Minorities are over-represented among the incarcerated so correctional nurses are vigilant in the identification and treatment of conditions that represent greater morbidity and mortality for these groups and deliver care with cultural competence. Chapters are devoted to the nursing care provided to patients who have chronic disease, infectious disease, mental illness, pain, or who are in withdrawal. Other chapters describe the unique health needs and resulting nursing care for specific populations including women, juveniles, or individuals at the end of life.
The setting for delivery of nursing care is challenging. Correctional facilities operate to carry out criminal sanctions imposed by the court; not to deliver healthcare. Yet correctional facilities are obligated by state and federal law to provide healthcare to prisoners and other detainees. The operation of correctional settings and the legal obligation for care can create ethical challenges for nurses around issues such as patient privacy and self-determination. The setting also challenges a central tenet of nursing, the concept of caring. The Essentials of Correctional Nursing describes how nurses safely navigate the correctional environment to create a therapeutic alliance to center their nursing care on the patient.
Nurses have been described as the backbone of correctional health care. They are the eyes, ears, hands, heads and hearts that respond to medical and mental health emergencies. During daily sick call and other routine healthcare encounters correctional nurses listen to any patient’s health concern and watchfully encourage others who are unable or unwilling to raise a health concern. Nurses must apply their knowledge, skill and ability to the assessment and diagnosis of the full range of health conditions presented by this population and determine both the urgency and priority of subsequent care. Nurses are often the primary gatekeeper to other health care professionals in the correctional setting. Chapters devoted to health screening, medical emergencies, sick call and dental care describe how nurses identify, respond to and manage these health concerns in the correctional setting.
The American Nurses Association (ANA) recognized correctional nursing as a specialty within professional nursing in 1985 with publication of Corrections Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice. The ANA standards are interwoven into each chapter of the Essentials of Correctional Nursing and are used by correctional nurses to guide nursing practice with resulting improvements in patient care.
Improvements in the delivery of care have been achieved by the establishment of standards and accreditation offered by the American Corrections Association (ACA) and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC). Both the ACA and NCCHC offer certification exams for nurses to demonstrate their expertise in correctional health care. The Essentials of Correctional Nursing was written to provide the content and structure to support nurses in studying for these certification examinations.
Correctional nurses participate in all of the interdisciplinary organizations including the American Correctional Health Services Association, The National Commission on Correctional Health Care, the American Corrections Association and the Academy of Correctional Healthcare Professionals; often serving in leadership positions on boards and committees. The Essentials of Correctional Nursing was written and reviewed by experienced correctional nurses who have contributed thousands of hours to the work of these organizations.
There is much to be done in correctional nursing to develop the evidence on which best practice is based. Correctional nurses need to further define and develop this area of professional practice; to transform health care delivery to improve patient outcomes in correctional settings; and advocate on behalf of individual patients as well as the population for adequate health care. The Essentials of Correctional Nursing provides a framework for review and application of research to promote the quality patient care. Finally nurses are invited to reflect on their own practice and challenged to consider the future of correctional nursing, setting the stage for growth of the specialty.