Inmate satisfaction with health care services during incarceration

 

Customer SatisfactionLast week’s post summarized the results of the most recent survey of inmates’ health published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). This survey also reported on inmates’ experience with the delivery of health care in 606 correctional facilities throughout the U.S. and their satisfaction with services provided. So before we look at those results take a minute to reflect on your encounters with inmates seeking or receiving health care and how they might rate their satisfaction. My experience is that many correctional nursing colleagues think that inmate satisfaction with health care is low, that many inmates fail to appreciate their care and take what care they do receive for granted. What is your opinion about how satisfied inmates are with their care?

What Do Inmates Think? 

According to the over 100,000 inmates surveyed, more than half were satisfied or very satisfied with health care received while incarcerated. In jails, 51% of the inmates in the survey reported being satisfied or very satisfied and in prisons it was 56%of those surveyed (Maruschal, Berzofsky, & Unangst 2015). This information certainly bursts the stereotype that inmates don’t value the health care they receive during incarceration! Most inmates do appreciate it. Further evidence is found in another survey done recently in a maximum security prison; the vast majority of prisoners in poor health prior to prison reported that their health had improved during incarceration (Yu et al. 2015).

Identifying Opportunities for Improvement 

Patient satisfaction has long been recognized as a valid tool in quality improvement. Often it is only through a patient’s eyes that we can see opportunities to improve patient outcomes or make the experience more supportive of health attainment. Information about patient satisfaction can provide insight into the perceptions and expectations of patients, one important part of the larger picture of a program’s performance. For example, in the Oregon DOC, one of the questions we used on a patient satisfaction survey was whether follow up appointments after nursing sick call were timely. We expected that inmates would be dissatisfied when wait times were more than a day and found out we were wrong. Even wait times of up to one week were rated as satisfactory.

The results of a patient satisfaction survey conducted in the Connecticut prison system revealed much the same results as that reported in the national survey by the BJS. Forty-three percent of 2,727 inmates surveyed (or 16% of the total population) reported satisfaction with their health care; this was considered “better than expected” by some of the health care staff in the system (Tanguay, Trestman & Weiskopf 2014). There was no difference in satisfaction scores based upon gender (male or female) or the type of facility (maximum security, work camp etc.).

The survey developed in Connecticut consisted of ten questions derived fundamentally from Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century published by the Institute of Medicine (IOM). There were ten topics that inmates were asked their opinion about. These are listed below:

General satisfaction with care Respect for privacy
Access to care is satisfactory The provider listened
Waiting time in the clinic is short The provider is competent & well trained
The provider introduced themselves The provider explained their findings
Treated in a friendly & courteous manner The patient knows what to do to get better or take care of themselves

The article pointed out that to ensure a good response rate questions were written at the fourth to fifth grade reading level, were limited to ten in number and used only three response categories (yes, no and unsure). Although the survey was anonymous, inmates were reluctant to participate at first but this changed over time as inmates came to understand that the survey was intended for program improvement, was indeed anonymous and therefore participation was “safe”.

Important Findings From the Feedback 

Feedback on inmate satisfaction was discussed with health care and correctional staff at each facility and at a statewide level. Satisfaction with each of the ten measures varied. The results and the ensuing discussion were used to identify areas for focused program improvement. For example access to care was rated as satisfactory by 45% of the inmates surveyed. Areas that made access to care difficult included appointments that were dropped because of facility to facility transfers which required inmates to re-request services. Automation of inmate scheduling was discussed as a way to eliminate this problem with access. Other areas that were selected for improvement included explanations for the patient about what the problem is and their treatment options and productive use of time spent waiting while in the clinic (Tanguay, Trestman, & Weiskopf 2014).

Correctional Nurses’ Role in Quality Improvement

Standard 10 of the Correctional Nursing Scope and Standards of Professional Practice provides guidance for correctional nurses’ contribution to quality. Competencies include participation in the evaluation of clinical care and service delivery, correcting inefficiencies in the process of care delivery, identifying and weakening barriers to quality patient outcomes (American Nurses Association 2013). Satisfaction surveys can provide useful insight into the experiences and expectations of our patients. Some patients may be receiving very good health care and still be unsatisfied but taken in the aggregate inmates tend to rate health care received during incarceration very positively. Consider conducting patient satisfaction surveys at your facility if you haven’t used this feedback method yet; you and other health care staff are likely to be pleasantly surprised.   Satisfaction survey results also provide information that can help focus on the areas of the patient’s experience that greatly impact health outcomes, as the report from Connecticut illustrated.

What Is Your Experience and Advice? 

Have you sought feedback from inmates at your facility about their satisfaction with health care? If so, was your experience with the results similar to that reported by the BJS and for the Connecticut prison system? Do you have copies of the survey questions that were used and if so will you share by responding in the comments section of this post?

For more on the nurses’ role in quality improvement see Chapter 18 Research Participation and Evidence-Based Practice in the Essentials of Correctional Nursing. You can order a copy from Springer Publishing and get $15 off as well as free shipping by using this code – AF1209.

References

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

Institute of Medicine (IOM) (2001) Crossing the quality chasm: A new health system for the 21st century. Washington DC: National Academies Press.

Maruschal, L. M., Berzofsky, M., & Unangst, J. (2015) Medical Problems of State and Federal Prisoners and Jail Inmates, 2011-2012. Special Report. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Tanguay, S., Trestman, R., & Weiskopf, C. (2014) Patient Health Satisfaction Survey in Connecticut Correctional Facilities. Journal of Correctional Health Care 20 (2); 127-134.

Yu, S-s. V., Sung, H-E., Mellow, J., Koenigsmann, C.J. (2015) Self-Perceived Health Improvement Among Prison Inmates. Journal of Correctional Health Care 21 (1); 59-61. 

Photo credit: © bahrialtay– Fotolia.com

Commentary on the Heavy Burden of Moral Distress in Correctional Nursing

A reader responds to our recent blog post on the Heavy Burden of Moral Distress. We hope you find this real-life example an encouragement that correctional nurses are speaking up when they have concerns about patient health issues in the criminal justice system.

The topic of moral distress among nurses is an elephant in the conference room of many healthcare organizations but at the core of conversations amongst nurses in the medication room.    A few typical statements made during these informal, ethically charged and expressive gatherings include; “It doesn’t’ do any good to tell anyone, they won’t do anything.” “It’s all about the bottom line.” “They don’t care how much more work they give nurses.” “Nurses who complain too much get fired.” “I need a job to so I can take care of my family.” “This is just the way it is, get used to it.”  Statements like these are made with such frequency today that moral distress could and should be viewed as an epidemic in nursing practice.  The following is a glimpse into the challenges some correctional nurses faced and how their quest and obligation as nurses to do the right thing put them on a path leading directly into the dark, lonely void of moral distress.

My Story

While working at a correctional facility, three nurses expressed their ongoing concerns to supervisors and administration about the well-being of inmates who were:

  • Not getting their prescribed medications for extended periods. This includes medications for chronic conditions, seizures and other serious illnesses,
  • Providers prescribing incompatible medications and refusing to change the order(s),
  • Providers documenting physicals on inmates they had not seen,
  • Stat and other critical orders not getting noted for days,
  • On-call providers not returning calls and,
  • Inmates with serious, potentially life-threatening conditions, being transferred without regard to maintaining some continuity of care.

A few nurses called the allegedly anonymous organization  “ Hot Line,” (nurses are encouraged to use these for reporting purposes) and voiced their concerns but to no avail.  Having exhausted all efforts to report their concerns internally they reached out to their local nursing organizations.  While these organizations provide invaluable services and support in many areas they were unable to provide immediate direction or tangible backing for these situations. They, like the nurses, were uncertain who they should and could turn to for support.

The onset of moral distress began when the first link in the organization’s chain of command broke because of  failed communications and after dismissing the nurses concerns with indifference.  The distress peaked when the nurses were terminated for doing the right thing. Terminated for doing what nurses are required to do, what we have vowed to do – complying with the Nursing Code of Ethics.

Nurses have taken an oath and are required to practice in accordance with the Nursing Code of Ethics which provides:

  1. A succinct statement of the ethical obligations and duties of every individual who enters the nursing profession.
  2. It is the profession’s nonnegotiable ethical standard.
  3. It is an expression of nursing’s own understanding of its commitment to society.

The sections applicable to the events being discussed are 3.4 and 3.5 as noted below:

Nursing Code of Ethics 3.4 “Standards and Review Mechanisms” 

Nurses must bring forward difficult issues related to patient care and/or institutional constraints upon ethical practice for discussion and review.

Nursing Code of Ethics 3.5, “Acting on Questionable Practice”

When a nurse chooses to engage in the act of responsible reporting about situations that are perceived as unethical, incompetent, illegal, or impaired, the professional organization has a responsibility to provide the nurse with support and assistance and to protect the practice of those nurses who choose to voice their concerns.

Reporting unethical, illegal, incompetent, or impaired practices, even when done appropriately, may present substantial risks to the nurse; nevertheless, such risks do not eliminate the obligation to address serious threats to patient safety.

Obligated to Speak

Nurses are obligated to bring difficult issues forward for discussion and review. We are duty-bound to report unsafe practices and or circumstances and must do so regardless of personal risk.  However, at the same time there is a responsibility to provide nurses with support and assistance when they do speak out. This is the crossroads where the path of moral distress becomes the loneliest and sometimes most frightening. It is alsothe time when a nurse needs support and encouragement the most. Unfortunately it is at this intersection that most nurses feel alone, abandoned, and with nowhere to turn.  This often becomes a turning point for nurses believing they must choose between speaking out or getting terminated; consequently many nurses make a silent and painfully emotional promise to never speak out again.  This forces nurses to overlook practices that not only put their patients at risk but their nursing license as well.  At this juncture moral distress has become an emotional pathogen.  Were it not for the support and encouragement of our patients and the public, many nurses would leave the profession.

Public Esteem

The public’s long-standing esteem for nurses is well documented in public opinion polls. Nurses rate high with the public in trended national survey questions about trusted professions, prestigious occupations, and “honesty and ethical standards.”  It is disheartening that organizations do not always see their nurses through the public’s eyes.  It is regrettable that even nurses don’t see themselves through the public’s eyes.  If nurses would stand together in our communities of practice perhaps we could begin a dialogue with our local nursing associations and employers to establish the support system illustrated in the Nursing Code of Ethics. Together we could address the circumstances and symptoms associated with moral distress at the onset and transform them into opportunities for change before nurses are forced to make that dreaded silent promise to keep quiet. Speaking out is included in the nonnegotiable ethical standards.

Would you be willing to speak out in a similar situation? Join the conversation with a comment.

Vital Signs: Essential Tool or Task?

Stethoscope green colorMr. Phillips is a 48 year old inmate with a history of schizophrenia who was admitted to the facility psych unit a week ago because of refusal to eat and potential for self-harm. On morning rounds, the nurse reports that his blood pressure is low (98/51 mmHg), although all of his other vital signs are within normal limits and he does not have any particular complaints. The primary care provider is contacted and asks that his vital signs be monitored closely. The provider is concerned that Mr. Phillips is dehydrated and asks that drinking water be readily available to him. During the remainder of the day he keeps to his cell and does not take any meals. That evening his vital signs are normal except for blood pressure, which is 88/51 mmHg. The night nurse makes a summary chart note at the end of the shift that Mr. Phillips appeared to sleep without complaint or distress. A few hours later he is found lying in bloody feces and barely responsive to verbal stimuli.

Florence Nightingale said “But if you cannot get the habit of observation one way or other, you had better give up the being a nurse, for it is not your calling, however kind and anxious you may be.” In this case example, the provider asked that Mr. Phillips’ vital signs be monitored closely and yet over the next 20 hours nursing staff only take them once. Taking vital signs is an independent nursing intervention (it does not require a provider order) and is considered an essential tool in the collection of information used by nurses to assess and monitor health status.

Monitoring of health status is described by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) as an important aspect of what nurses do in caring for patients. Monitoring or patient surveillance is defined as purposeful and ongoing collection, interpretation and synthesis of data for clinical decision making with the goal of early identification and prevention of potential problems. The practice includes skill in the use of monitoring devices to measure temperature, pulse, blood pressure, respiration, tissue oxygenation and neurological status. It also includes thinking critically about possible reasons for changes in a patient’s vital signs, to think beyond the obvious in constructing a diagnosis, then formulating a plan and intervening to achieve the identified patient outcomes.

In the correctional setting, the nurse is the initial and primary link a patient has to access care for medical and mental illnesses. Utilization of nursing process, including comprehensive assessment is critical to good patient outcomes in the correctional setting. The first practice standard is that correctional nurses collect comprehensive data in a systematic and ongoing process, using appropriate tools and techniques and then synthesizes the data to construct a coherent whole to plan, provide and direct subsequent care (ANA 2013, White & O’Sullivan 2012).

The function of using vital signs to monitor a patient’s physiological status is among the first subjects taught in nursing school along with the development of skill in using various measurement tools and techniques. However the ability to synthesize the information and come to a clinical judgment requires exposure to many clinical situations and the knowledge garnered from experience. It is only from reflection on clinical experiences that the expertise to form a nursing judgment develops (Rathbun & Ruth-Sahd 2009).

The patient safety and quality improvement literature have emphasized development of early warning systems using numerical parameters set for abnormal vital signs to help identify patients whose physiological status is deteriorating during hospitalization (Whittington et al. 2007). Reasons for establishment of these systems are that nurses fail to detect deterioration in patients because they don’t take vital signs as frequently as they should, nurses wait to take vital signs only when they recognize that the patient is deteriorating and they are overly reliant on their experience to alert them when a patient’s condition is deteriorating (Bunkenborg et al. 2012).

All three of these reasons played into the failure to recognize earlier deterioration of the patient in the case example at the start of this post. The next three posts will address best practices for taking vital signs, the interpretation and synthesis of data collected from vital signs and the concept of clinical triggers in patient care. In the meantime take a moment to conduct your own audit and reflect on the use of vital signs in your setting. Here are some questions to get you started:

  1. Are vital signs treated as a tool or a task?
  2. When do you take vital signs and why?
  3. When do you delegate taking vital signs?
  4. What is the significance of the information collected and how is patient care impacted?

For more on the professional practice of nursing in the correctional setting get a copy of our book Essentials of Correctional Nursing. If you order directly from the publisher you can get $15 off and free shipping. Use code AF1209.

References:

American Nurses Association (2013) Correctional Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice (2nd Ed.) American Nurses Association. Silver Spring, MD.

Bunkenborg, G., Samuelson, K., Åkeson, J., Poulsen, I. (2012) Impact of professionalism in nursing on in-hospital bedside monitoring practice. Journal of Advanced Nursing 1466-1477.

Nightingale, F. (1860) Notes on Nursing: What it is, and what it is not. D. Appleton and Company, New York.

Page, A. (Ed) (2004) Keeping Patients Safe: Transforming the Work Environment of Nurses. Institute of Medicine. The National Academies Press. Washington, D.C.

Rathbun, M. C. & Ruth-Sahd, L. A. (2009) Algorithmic tools for interpreting vital signs. Journal of Nursing Eduction. 48(7): 395-400.

White, K. M. & O’Sullivan, A. (Ed.) (2012) The Essential Guide to Nursing Practice. American Nurses Association. Silver Spring, MD.

Whittington, J., White, R., Haig, K.M., & Slock, M. (2007) Using an automated risk assessment tool to identify patients at risk for clinical deterioration. The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety 33(9): 569-574.

Photo credit: © pakphoto Fotolia.com

Correctional Nurse Goals for 2015: Expand Your Knowledge

2015 goals on digital tabletHealth care is advancing at the speed of light. We are expected to apply current evidence to our practice and understand the new technologies, medications, and treatments that are being implemented. It can be difficult to merely keep from sliding backward as the treadmill pace ever increases under our feet. That is why my final suggestion for correctional nurse goals for this year is to expand your knowledge about your practice and keep up with the latest developments. Here are a few ideas to get you thinking about ways to improve your foundational correctional nursing knowledge and keep up with changes in nursing practice. Links are provided for easy purchase or subscription.

A Foundational Book Shelf

Every serious correctional nurse should have access to these texts as they are the basis for our specialty practice.

Specialty Periodicals

Journals and magazines provide updates to changing practice and information on movements in the industry.

Ongoing Information Updates

Digital sources keep us posted on day-to-day changes and news of importance to our practice. Although you could go out and regularly check information websites, but I favor sources that collect up the top items and send them to my inbox for scanning. Here are a few of my favorites.

  • Academy Insider – This free weekly email newsletter from the ACHP aggregates correctional health care news and items of interest for those in our field.
  • Medscape for Nurses – Keep up with research and information in the general nursing field with this weekly synopsis sent to your inbox.
  • ANA SmartBrief – Professional news from the American Nursing Association. Keep current on what is going on in our profession.

I’m sure I didn’t include all the possible places for you to gain knowledge and stay on top of changes in our profession and specialty. Share your favorite sources in the comments section of this post.

Photo Credit: © Marek – Fotolia.com

What’s new and news

Speaker at Business Conference and Presentation.First: What is new with Ebola since the last post? Another nurse from Texas and a doctor in New York are infected. The Centers for Disease Control has held two teleconferences with nurses across the country and issued revised infection control guidelines to prevent transmission of Ebola to health care workers. Also last week the American Jail Association disseminated guidelines developed by two jails in and around Dallas where the first case in the United States originated. I hope you have reviewed and perhaps revised your communicable disease screening and identification procedures as well as the availability and use of personal protective equipment consistent with these new recommendations.

NCCHC Fall Conference: Celebrity Chef Jeff Henderson was the key note speaker at the fall conference took place in Las Vegas last week. Henderson got his GED and learned culinary skills while serving a nine year sentence in Federal prison for drug dealing. Once released he continued to develop his culinary skills, eventually becoming Executive Chef at Café Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas and writing four self-help books including his autobiography, ‘Cooked’. Now he works with young people to provide alternatives to getting involved in the illegal drug trade and is a motivational speaker. He has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America, The Montel Williams Show, CNBC, NPR’s All Things Considered, People and USA Today.

My favorite of all the stories he told was about buying all the top ramen noodles he could afford from the prison commissary. He wasn’t interested in the noodles which he passed out to everyone on the cell block who wanted some. Instead he wanted the seasoning mix that was included with the noodles. As head chef, he used these to spice up the cheese wiz to make his nachos, now famous in prison lore. Jeff Henderson was a young man in prison when he read his first book, was called “son” for the first time, and had someone acknowledge something that he did well in school. He has a great message about self-help and a convincing perspective for all of us involved in the criminal justice system.

Here is a recipe from Cooked (pages 163-164). When Jeff makes fried chicken he still uses this recipe from Friendly Womack, who was the chief inmate cook at the federal prison outside Las Vegas when Jeff was serving time there.

Friendly’s Famous Buttermilk Fried Chicken

2 tablespoons cayenne pepper                                 2 teaspoons onion powder

3 tablespoons black pepper                                        4 tablespoons kosher salt

2 cups all-purpose flour                                                 1 quart buttermilk

1 chicken cut into eight pieces

  1.  Mix all of the spices together in a bowl. Put half the seasoning mix in another bowl. Add the flour to one bowl, mix well and set aside.
  2. Rub the chicken with the reserved spice mix. Poke all the pieces with a fork a few times and set aside. (Friendly taught me to pierce the chicken pieces with a fork so the buttermilk seeps down into the bird.)
  3. Pour the buttermilk into a stainless steel bowl. Add the remaining spices and the chicken pieces. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
  4. Dip the chicken pieces into the seasoned flour, pat the pieces together and make sure they are heavily coated.
  5. Drop them into a deep fryer or in a deep pan with enough vegetable oil to cover the chicken. Turn the chicken as it browns and remove once done.

News about the doings of contributing authors: Authors who contributed to Essentials of Correctional Nursing were also prominent during the NCCHC Conference. Margaret Collatt and Sue Smith gave a presentation about a project to develop guidelines for correctional nurses in chronic care management. In addition to Margaret and Sue, the group working on this project includes:

Sue Lane, RN, ASN CCHP                              Susan Laffan, RN CCHP-A CCHP-RN

Pat Voermans, MS, RN, ANP, CCHP-RN Patricia Blair, PhD, LLM, JD, MSN, CCHP

Lorry Schoenly, PhD, RN, CCHP-RN          Sabrina McCain, RN, ASN CCHP

Lori Roscoe, PhD, ANP-C, CCHP-RN          Debbie Franzoso, LPN, CCHP

They have two guidelines in development right now. One is on management of hypertension and the other concerns seizure disorders. The presenters encouraged nurses to participate in this process by commenting on the format for the guidelines and the topics that are important to correctional nurses. Watch for more news about this important project.

Mary Muse gave two presentations that serve to inspire the practice of correctional nurses. One was from the ANA Nursing Scope and Standards of Professional Practice on two steps in nursing process: Implementation and Evaluation. She used two case examples which always help to make standards real in their application to our daily practice. She also presented a session on the Transformation of Nursing Leadership reminding us of the challenges and expectations for nurses with the change resulting from the Affordable Care Act and the report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) on the Future of Nursing.

Margaret and Susan Laffan teamed up to give four presentations throughout the conference. These included sessions on the cardiovascular examination, understanding lab values and critical thinking as part of nursing process. As usual with these two presenters, the sessions were full of practical information, fun and door prizes as well.

Margaret and Susan joined with Sue Medley-Lane for a session on Rejuvenation of Nursing Spirit. For Susan Laffan, rejuvenation comes when she dons her pink fuzzy slippers which you will sometimes see her smoozing around the conference in. These presenters discussed the demands of life that can contribute to a loss of spirit and ways to mitigate the cumulative effect of these experiences. They asked correctional nurses to tell the stories and describe the experiences that have inspired their commitment to the field and will collect these and send the collection back out to participants. If you have a story or experience that has been your inspiration for correctional nursing send it to njjailnurse@aol.com by November 30, 2014. The story must include your name, your state and your email address. It should be no more than 300 words long and the names of any patients in the story should be changed.

If you have some ideas about what you think the guidelines for nursing management of chronic care should include or subjects that should be covered please respond in the comments section of this post. If you have an inspirational story about correctional nursing that you would like to share please send it to Susan Laffan at njjailnurse@aol.com by November 30, 2014.

For more on correctional nursing read our book, the Essentials of Correctional Nursing. Order your copy directly from the publisher. Use promotional code AF1209 for $15 off and free shipping.

Ebola: Another Look at Infection Control

EbolaA colleague of mine from Dallas, Texas mentioned on a phone call last week how busy things were in the health care industry with the death of Mr. Duncan from Ebola. Now that Nina Pham, a nurse who cared for him has Ebola, I imagine things have heated up even more. Another nurse in Spain has been infected as well after caring for a patient with Ebola. I’ve also seen one report of a jail in Wisconsin that has a detainee under medical surveillance for Ebola symptoms because she recently arrived from West Africa.

People worry about infectious diseases especially when it is a new and threatening disease, even when the risk of infection seems remote. Nurses are a trusted resource and often the first person staff and inmates seek information from about an infectious disease and what can be done to protect themselves. The next several months will be an opportunity for correctional nurses to shine in providing accurate information and advice about Ebola and infection control more generally.

Health teaching and promotion is one of the American Nurses Association (ANA) practice standards for correctional nurses (2013). The competencies for health teaching and promotion include:

  • Addressing a variety of topics that reduce risk and promote health.
  • Using teaching methods appropriate to the situation and the audience.
  • Seeking feedback and evaluation of the effectiveness of teaching strategies used.
  • Using information technologies to communicate information.

Here are five tips to use in providing health information about Ebola for staff and inmates at your correctional facility.

  1. Give credible information. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is going to be your best resource. Here is the link to the CDC web page which includes the latest news and advice for hospitals as well as community settings. Another resource is the local health department for your area. It is not uncommon for people to bring forward concerns or information that is contrary to your information or advice. The best approach here is just to cite your sources and ask that those with opposing information cite theirs so that individuals can make up their own minds after considering the information they have received.
  2. Give concrete suggestions about what to do. People often feel helpless and vulnerable in the face of a disease that they know little about. Suggesting concrete steps that can be taken goes a long way toward reducing the fear and anxiety associated with an unknown risk. You might suggest, for example, looking up one of your references or giving people a resource site to go to. Another suggestion might be for someone to assess their knowledge and skill in hand hygiene or use of personal protective equipment.
  3. Reinforce the information already known about infection control. Ebola is spread by direct contact with infected body fluids. We know that prevention measures are to use standard, contact and droplet precautions when caring for someone with an infectious disease transmitted by direct contact. Emphasize the measures that are already in place at your facility to protect staff and other inmates from transmission by direct contact.
  4. Link new information to past efforts and successes. The concern and anxiety about a new infectious disease can be reduced if staff and inmates can see a link to other successes with infection control practices in everyday life.
  5. Look for allies to help spread the word. If you can demystify the disease, people will feel less victimized by the unknown and uncontrollable and ready to take the steps they need to in protecting themselves. When non-medical personnel at a correctional facility embrace the facts about Ebola and the steps to prevent transmission you have mastered control of the infection. Often getting an organization to this place is jump started when a member of the custody staff becomes a spokesperson about the disease. Invest time in sharing information with interested custody staff and they will help carry the message. The same is true for inmates; often peer educators are more effective than professionals in getting important health information across to others.

Two more thoughts about how as correctional nurses we can prepare for the Ebola virus:

  • Even if the possibility of the disease presenting at your facility may seem remote ask what can be learned from it about the infection control practices you have in place. For example, the nurse in Dallas is hypothesized by CDC to have become infected as a result of a breach in infection control practices. We all know how routine infection control practices are part of the daily routine so ask yourself if there are breakdowns you may not be aware of? It is a good time to audit infection control procedures to ensure that identification and prevention measures are up to date and intact.
  • Keep up with information about the disease and what is recommended in relation to infection control. Our hearts go out to the nurse, Nina Pham; and we want to learn everything we can from her experience so we can protect ourselves. The CDC is investigating the infection control practices she used and it will be important for every nurse to incorporate what we learn into our own practice.

The CDC is sponsoring a teleconference for health care professionals on preparing for Ebola October 14 and the ANA has a resource page about Ebola for nurses. What advice do you have for correctional nurses about how to respond to questions about Ebola virus? Please share your advice by responding in the comments section of this post.

For more on standard, contact and droplet precautions see Chapter 10 Infectious Diseases written by Sue Smith in the Essentials for Correctional Nursing. She also discusses the role of correctional nurses in providing information and education about infectious disease. Order your copy directly from the publisher. Use promotional code AF1209 for $15 off and free shipping.

Photo credit: © kentoh – Fotolia.com

Correctional Nursing Peer Review: Some Examples

cocheAlthough the concept of nursing peer review is over two decades old, it is just coming of age in the correctional nursing specialty as the newest version of the National Commission on Correctional Health Care Accreditation Standards has expanded the Clinical Performance Enhancement Program (Standard C-02) to include RNs and LPNs. This is the fourth in a 4-part series of posts on correctional nursing peer review. Find other posts on this topic here.

Recently I queried correctional nurse leaders around the country about what they were doing regarding nursing peer review. Many responded that they were researching the process and just getting started. Here are examples of what some systems have developed thus far. They may help you determine what would be best for your purposes.

The Washington state prison system is using a form to document peer review of these practice factors:

  • MAR Completion
  • Completion of Assessments
  • Nurse Care Plan & documented follow-up
  • Documentation
  • Seeks Consultation Appropriately
  • Appropriate Application of Guidelines
  • Clinical Knowledge Base
  • Interest in Improving Skills
  • Patient-oriented Care
  • Professionalism
  • Professional Ethics
  • Patient Education
  • Observed Clinical Skills
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Delegates tasks appropriately

Armor Correctional Health Services, Inc. is using a system that follows the nursing process, reviewing documentation for these practice factors:

  • Legibility of notes
  • Each entry includes date, time, signature and printed name
  • Sufficient information to understand the condition
  • Appropriate assessment includes objective information about the condition
  • Appropriate format and documentation (ie: soap v. incidental note, abbreviations)
  • Ordering of medication (from the right vendor, right medication, right dose)
  • Documentation on the medication administration record
  • Completion of referrals as appropriate

The Ohio state prison system has had a nursing peer review program in place since 2007. They review nursing documentation for each nurse every 2 years. Ten charts are selected – 5 by the reviewer and 5 by the nurse being reviewed. Their policy specifically states that results of the nursing peer review are never used as grounds for disciplinary or punitive action. Instead, a remediation plan may be initiated, if appropriate.

Are you developing a Nursing Peer Review program in your setting? Share your experiences in the comments section of this post.

To read more about professional practice issues see Chapter 19 in the Essentials of Correctional Nursing. The text can be ordered directly from the publisher and if you use Promo Code AF1402 the price is discounted by $15 off and shipping is free.

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