Not all inmates are seeking victims to manipulate, but some are. Nurses working in jails and prisons need to know how to protect themselves from falling into common traps. It is your duty for protecting yourself as a correctional nurse.
Protecting Yourself as a Correctional Nurse
Here are some tips to stay safe while caring for our patient population.
- Be professional at all times. Understand relationship boundaries and don’t go beyond them. Inmates will seek to gain a friendship relationship. Stay within bounds of professional interaction.
- Be on alert when in the work environment. Be aware of those around you when you are talking about personal activities. Limit these interactions to private staff areas rather than in front of inmate patients.
- Become an expert at the games and techniques that are commonly used by manipulating inmates. Point them out to your team members when you see them. Protect each other from harm.
- Treat all patients in a firm, fair and consistent manner. This allows little opportunity for misinterpretation or leveraging your behavior to ill advantage.
- Learn to say ‘No’ firmly and objectively. No need to be personal or emotional about the choice not to respond to a request.
- Keep everyone, especially your supervisor, apprised of concerns about particular inmate behaviors. Even if you have been compromised. Tell your supervisor immediately. Don’t spiral further into error.
- Document any compromising situation including your specific response. If there is not a formal mechanism for this documentation, keep your own personal file. This will be helpful should a particular situation come into question.
The challenge for correctional nurses is to remain caring in a therapeutic relationship without being drawn into a personal relationship and compromising security. The tightrope we walk is to deliver nursing care within the bounds of propriety and security. Your personal safety and the safety of other staff and inmates can be jeopardized if we don’t get this right.
Information in this series comes from a presentation given by Lori Roscoe, PhD, MPA, BSN, CCHP-RN at the Nursing Forum of the 2012 National Conference of the American Correctional Health Services Association (ACHSA). Dr. Roscoe is Executive Director of Clinical Services at CorrectHealth Companies and has great information for correctional nurses at her website The Correctional Nurse Educator.
Have you needed to report an inmate-patient or document a compromising situation? Share your experiences in the comments section of this post.
Photo Credit: © Serg Zastavkin – Fotolia.com
If you like the story you might like:
The Basics of Caring for Criminals
Botulism and Prison Brew
How to Work with Inmate Patients Part III: Watch for These Techniques
How to Work with Inmate Patients Part II: Are You a Target?
How to Work with Inmate-Patients Part 1: Be Alert for the Con
Mick Forquer says
I have been approached by male and female inmates alike when I worked in the County Jail. Pretty easy to say no, as they usually leave within a year. They seem to get the message. Now I work for a private prison. It’s a little different as these are all males, and have multiple years a head of them before they are released. My reputation as being someone who won’t break the rules seems to be a challenge for some inmates. I always let my supervisor know who they are and what they are trying to do. Thanks for the great articles! Mick.
Lorry Schoenly says
You make some good points, Mick. Jails and prisons are different and our patients have different motivations to keep in mind. In addition, reputation is so important. Word gets around the cell block and ‘easy’ nurses just get themselves into more hot water. Thanks for contributing to the discussion.
As I hear of inmate nurses, the first thing to hit my mind is Cynthia Palomata. I don’t know how many of you will google for this information but it was a sad tragedy. Cynthia was an inmate nurse who was murdered by an inmate at the jail when he faked a seizure and she ran to his rescue. It is sad to know how immoral it could be to hurt someone who is there to save your life. But the more concerning question is what needs to be done to keep yourself safe if you are an inmate nurse. I am a part of a nursing school in California and will try to incorporate safety courses for inmate nurses as well. It’s a very good and informative blog indeed.
Lorry Schoenly says
Yes, that was a tragic case, Michael, and a reminder that violence can come from unexpected sources. Thanks for reading the blog!
Karen Dennis says
We just had a nurse severely injured from a supposed unconscious IM. He was in an Isolation cell due to his violent behaviors. A normally pleasant IM, he ingested some bad K2 and was very unpredictable. They could not rouse him verbally so they could not cuff him up so they entered the cell and nurse went over to where IM was laying prone on floor, he was up in a flash, tried to gouge out nurse’ eyes, broke his nose, bit his eyebrow. Our doctor happened to be here, he ran in to help, he got bumped around, our female office punched in the face. Our safety alarm which is required wear, was across the room unaccessible. The nurse will be OK, his sight was spared, and the antiviral drugs are kicking his butt. But we are trying to learn from this incident, all of us. He did what most of us would have done in the same situation. It could have been any of us. Out of all of our nurses here, this nurse was probably the one that could have best protected himself but was unable to do so. Dear God let us all learn from this unfortunate story.
Lorry Schoenly says
Wow! Sorry to hear this story, Karen. We certainly work in a dangerous profession. Stay safe.