Resilience is the ability to bounce back or cope successfully despite adversity. Moral resilience is the capacity of the person to preserve or restore integrity in response to moral adversity. It is the ability and willingness to speak, and take right and good actions in the face of moral/ethical adversity. At no time in our Correctional Nursing history was resilience, and indeed, moral resilience, needed more than it is right now!
A Great Need in Correctional Practice
While all areas of health care present certain moral/ethical challenges, moral resilience is especially important in Correctional Nursing practice because the correctional environment presents unique moral and ethical challenges to nurses and other healthcare staff. Nurses are taught, at least on an introductory level, about the moral challenges they may face in community practice settings, but this may not be adequate for intense situations. In fact, the moral/ethical dilemmas that may be presented in a correctional nursing practice are far from the typical case scenarios taught in these nursing ethics classes.
Correctional settings present different challenges not usually encountered in community settings. For example:
- Incarcerated persons are held against their will.
- Incarcerated persons often have maladaptive ways of behaving or interacting in society.
- Healthcare provision is secondary to the greater concerns of safety and security.
- There is a strong bias inside and outside of correctional facilities against incarcerated persons.
- Many people in the greater community (and even some inside the walls) believe that incarcerated persons do not deserve healthcare or that their healthcare needs are less important than healthcare needs of individuals in the free world.
Correctional nurses in some settings may be faced with daily ethical challenges. Being able to continually cope with these challenges requires moral resilience.
Developing Moral Resilience
There are several ways to personally develop moral resilience.
Self-Awareness. Be aware of your own values, needs, and strengths.
Skill Development. Develop and practice skills in communication, negotiation, conflict resolution and interprofessional collaboration. Seek out educational opportunities to develop and practice these skills.
Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a moment-to-moment awareness that focuses attention, notices those emotions and thoughts that are distracting, and promotes relaxation.
Self-Care. Take care of yourself. Maintain good physical and emotional health.
Have a strong support system. Develop and maintain close relationships with co-workers, friends, and family.
Organizations have a responsibility to promote and encourage moral resilience for their staff, too. Here are some ways to provide an organizational framework and culture that encourages moral resilience.
Create a public dialog about moral/ethical challenges in the work environment.
Acknowledge that Correctional Nurses may experience them more than, and perhaps differently from, their community colleagues.
Support staff in their acknowledgement and management of these moral issues.
Model moral/ethical behavior for staff.
Create opportunities to discuss situations with ethical implications, such as at staff meetings.
How about you? How do you deal with moral and ethical challenges in your correctional practice? Share your thoughts in the comments section of this post.