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Correctional nurses--time to overcome the stigma!

The response I am most familiar with when telling others I work in a prison is a furrowed brow accompanied by a quizzical look and then asking, as if they had not heard correctly the first time, "You're a prison nurse?" My correctional nurse colleagues have told me they often feel embarrassed to tell others where they work as a result of the mixed responses elicited including the sense that correctional nursing is what one does when unable to find a "real" nursing position. So, you can imagine my delight when I was told a BSN student had 'bought' me at the October, 2014, Arizona Student Nurses Association "Coffee with the Experts Auction", an opportunity for student nurses to spend time with an expert in a specific clinical field, and also an opportunity for me to tell my story.

Correctional nursing emerged as a specialty in 1976 when the United States Supreme Court in Estelle v Gamble determined that; "Failure to provide adequate health care to individuals confined in correctional institutions violated a prisoners' constitutional rights." Information regarding the number of nurses currently practicing in a corrections environment is limited making it difficult to monitor trends and growth. However, there is an abundance of information available regarding the enormous increase in America's prison population, including our own state. It is likely, then, that there has been a corresponding increase in nurses working in jails and prisons across the country.

Arizona's population has doubled over the past 30 years, while the State's prison population has increased tenfold, from 3,377 inmates in June 1979 to 40,477 inmates in June 2010. Arizona is home to ten State prison facilities, six private facilities with prisoners from other states and seven County jails that house inmates. The perpetual increase in inmate population is creating a need for correctional nurses that are educated and prepared to work in this unique, challenging and rewarding field.

While there is great need for correctional nurses, there remains concern that those who choose to work in a correctional setting are "less than" real nurses or inadequate to work in traditional settings. Lorry Schoenly, PhD, RN, CCHP-RN, correctional nurse consultant, states "Actually, it takes tremendous skill to care for inmate-patients. They are likely to have significant medical and mental health conditions that have not been treated prior to incarceration."

ANA provides standards for correctional nursing practice through the Correctional Nursing Scope and Standards of Practice (2013), another example that your nursing association is there for you, providing support for your professional practice. With the support of the AzNA and collaborative partnerships with other professionals, I am confident we too can collectively change the face of correctional nursing in Arizona. My BSN nursing student found me after a difficult search. It is time to make the invisible field of correctional nursing a visible option for nurses looking for an interesting and challenging position caring for a population of patients in great need.

References

Arizona Department of Corrections. (n.d.). https:// corrections.az.gov/prisons Office of the Auditor General. (2010). Department of Corrections Prison Population Growth (1008). Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

University of Connecticut School of Nursing. (n.d.). [PDF]Enhancing the Competency of the Correctional Nursing ... cmhc.uchc.edu/

Elaine Clayton, BSN, RN
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Title Annotation:Correctional Nursing
Author:Clayton, Elaine
Publication:Arizona Nurse
Date:Feb 1, 2015
Words:545
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