Making the adjustment in collaboration with security staff is often difficult, but it can be done.
My friend, Sue Smith, MSN, RN, CCHP-RN, spent many years providing nursing care in the Ohio Prison System. Her guest post shares words of wisdom from her work experience.
Maintaining a safe and secure environment is the primary mission of correctional facilities – not healthcare. This means that the persons who hold nearly all of the power in correctional facilities are the security officers and administrators. Practicing within the correctional environment means that correctional nurses must learn to cooperate and collaborate with the security staff. Philosophical differences between the two disciplines can be very significant, especially with regard to treatment of prisoners. One of the most difficult adjustments that correctional nurses must make is learning to work with security staff without sacrificing nursing perspective. Making the adjustment in collaboration with security staff is often difficult, but it can be done. Correctional nurses need to remember a few things:
- Security personnel are like most people – they have preconceived notions about how nurses behave and think. Sometimes, correctional staff can be critical of nursing concepts like compassion and patient advocacy, but they still do not like it when nurses do not act as expected. Role modeling expected nurse behavior may invite some teasing, but generally the security staff will have greater respect for the nurses.
- Mutual respect will go a long way to facilitate collaboration with security staff. Correctional officers and administrators have a hard job. Correctional nurses need to recognize this and refrain from being overly critical or judgmental about security perspectives about prisoners – without sacrificing their nursing perspective. Simply put – the words “please” and “thank you”, professional courtesy and consideration will help nurses collaborate with their security colleagues.
- Nurses need to remember that the correctional environment is different than the hospital environment and can be inherently dangerous. While correctional nurses are not really security staff, they do need to remember and be concerned with safety principles so that they do not place themselves and their security colleagues in unnecessary danger.
What are your experiences with collaboration with our correctional officer colleagues? Share your insights in the comments section of this post.
Photo Credit: © AKS – Fotolia.com
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