The American Nurses Association defines nursing as
…the protection, promotion, and optimization of health and abilities, prevention of illness and injury, alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human response, and advocacy in the care of individuals, families, communities, and populations (emphasis added)
Quite a mouthful, and quite a challenge to deliver in a correctional setting. Some may ask if nurses working in corrections can truly ‘care’ for their inmate-patients, considering the circumstances for which they are incarcerated. Thus is the generation of several ethical dilemmas for this nursing specialty.
Providing Care to Criminals
A major challenge for any correctional nurse is to see the inmate-patient as a human being in need of healthcare at this point in their lives without regard for their conviction. Just as in any other healthcare setting, the patient does not recieve care based on the goodness or badness of their life actions or choices. In other settings, the nurse is not aware of past law violations of patients – whether they cheat on their taxes, run red lights, or are cruel to neighbors or pets. Delivery of quality nursing care is a goal to strive for no matter the characteristics of the patient.
In fact, I recommend that nurses working in corrections make a point of not knowing the reason for the patient’s incarceration – it can only cloud your vision for delivering good care. That does not include level of security, by the way. Always be aware of the level of security for the facility or area in which you are practicing. Safety is of first concern and must be attended to at all times.
What do you think? Are you a correctional nurse or could you be one? What would the challenge be in caring for a criminal?