These comments are based upon those included in our April Monthly Newsletter – The Correctional Nurse – that is sent out to all subscribers of CorrectionalNurse.Net, The Correctional Nurse Educator and Nursing Behind the Wall. Subscriptions are free.
It is notable that even in a few weeks since our newsletter was written, deaths have wildly increased in the United States and world-wide, and sadly include not only our colleagues working in the hospital and skilled nursing settings, but correctional nurses and correctional officers as well. As of April 13, 2020, the CDC reported that in the United States, there were 525,704 cases of infection with COVID-19, and there have been over 23,000 deaths related to COVID-19 infection. Close contact sources of exposure were documented as being five times more prevalent than travel-related sources of exposure, but the majority of the cases are “still under investigation.”
Words like “unprecedented,” “crisis,” and “uncharted territory” are consistently being used to describe this pandemic. Nurses, Providers and everyone who works in healthcare are being celebrated as heroes and publicly thanked. The individuals who work at the jobs that keep our communities going, like the grocery stores and the gas stations, are also being recognized for their huge contribution to everyone’s daily lives. All deserve the accolades!
I know that Correctional Nurses are well-equipped to respond to this crisis! One of the foundations of our nursing practice is infection control, thanks, in part, to Florence Nightingale, who identified the connection between handwashing, cleanliness and fresh air, and infection rates. We have always been taught to use good infection control practices in all our interactions – hand washing for at least 20 seconds before and after a patient interaction, even with glove use; using hand sanitizer if hand washing is not possible (like during medpass); and using other personal protective equipment (gowns, goggles, masks and face shields) as the situation requires. In this case, masks and shields should be used anytime you are closer than six feet from the patient…which for most of us is always!
There is nothing known about COVID-19 that would cause us to veer from our basic infection control practices.
That being said, I also know that supplies and equipment may be in short supply, and so I again urge you to go “back to basics”. Understanding WHY you do something (like using a mask as a barrier to prevent the inhalation of potentially virus-filled droplets) may help you figure out another way to achieve the same or a similar outcome. Use your Correctional Nurse colleagues’ knowledge and experience, and ask how they are accomplishing their nursing activities during this time. Please feel free to use the Comments Section on any of our websites, or the FaceBook pages for CorrectionalNurse. Net, The Correctional Nurse Educator and Nursing Behind the Wall to post your questions and/or the best practices that you have found work for your patients and your facility.
If ever there was one, this is a time when patient and colleague education is extremely important. You, as the healthcare giver, have become the on-site “expert.” The CDC, the National Commission on Correctional Health Care and the American Correctional Association have resources with which you can provide the most current information. Please convey the crucial importance of everyone’s actions during this time to your colleagues and your patients. This is not a time to take the recommendations of our healthcare leaders lightly.
During this time, when nurses are asked to do more, sometimes with less, and are asked to work even more hours, please take a moment each day to take care of yourself, whether it is deep breathing exercises, meditation, prayer, or even chair yoga. Be thankful that you are able to use your gift for good. Know that your nursing training has prepared you for this (and if necessary, go online and refresh your memory about necessary topics). Know that this will not be forever. Most of all, know that your actions and intentions are greatly appreciated by your patients, other staff members and your community!
Thank you and Be Safe!