Nearing graduation, I get a lot of congratulations and questions about where I want to work. I usually get raised eyebrows when I proudly state that I want to be a correctional nurse. I also get plenty of weird looks and discouragements. Some people don’t even know what I am talking about. “What is that?” they say. It gives me an opportunity to talk about the invisible world of nursing behind bars.
I became interested in correctional nursing through an assignment during my first year of nursing school. The assignment was to research an area of interest in nursing. I looked up all the different types of nurses on the internet and noticed correctional health on the list. I thought it sounded different and kind of exciting so I gathered some information, and presented my findings to my classmates. From that point on, all my classmates knew how interested I was in correctional nursing!
Being involved in my school’s Student Nurses Association allowed me the opportunity to attend the Arizona Nurses Association Symposium/Student Nurses Association Convention. This year there was a raffle for the students to win a coffee date with a professional nurse in various fields. I noticed there was a correctional nurse as one of the options, so, of course, I bought a handful of tickets to ensure I would win this great opportunity!
When I met with the correctional nurse, I was beyond excited because I never had the chance to talk to someone who was actually in the field. She provided a massive amount of information and excellent insight into the profession. I always had a light inside fueling my passion, but that day my light turned into a burning fire of desire.
Since then, I have had the opportunity to network with a new graduate in the field of correctional nursing. I always thought it was impossible for a new graduate to get a job in what seems like such a specialty area. The common advice for new graduate nurses is to work at least a year or two on a medical/surgical unit to gain basic skill. But, I had one inspirational instructor who told me to follow my dream of being a correctional nurse; to go into the area I am passionate about. My coffee date confirmed this. It was important for a correctional nurse to suggest going right into the specialty from school. Are the basic skill sets that much different?
As I reflect on my experience as a student nurse discovering the correctional nursing specialty, I am wondering why more nurses don’t know about this hidden opportunity. It seems like a well-kept secret. I also wonder why the responses I get about correctional nursing are not very positive. Are nurses who work with inmates somehow considered insignificant or inferior among others in the nursing profession?
Nurses take care of millions of people coming from all walks of life. To me, the only difference in a correctional nurse is knowing that the person is incarcerated. Nurses in a hospital take care of people who have been in jail, but they just may not know it. In some cases, people are wrongly accused and end up in jail for things they never did. Anyone can be at risk for going to jail no matter how unlikely that may seem. As a nurse, I want to provide equal and just healthcare to everyone regardless of their criminal background. I am not treating a person based on their lifestyle or circumstances. I am treating a person – PERIOD!
Have you experienced raised eyebrows or discouragement when you shared your correctional nursing background or interest? Share your thoughts in the comments section of this post. Are you a correctional nurse with an inspiring story to share on the correctionalnurse.net blog? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Correctional nurse authors of posted stories receive an autographed copy of one of Lorry’s books.
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