Why I quit prison nursing Part 2. Some good stuff but not for me.

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Prison nursing

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So yesterday I wrote about some of the challenges in prison nursing. Today I will mention there are some positives, if you like independence in your position, but overall, it wasn’t for me.
Back to my experience: I quickly found out that on night shift there was a lot of independence. The way it worked on the night shift was the guards would relay what ever symptoms the patient would be complaining of, and the nurse would triage this according to the report of the symptoms. Well I learned real quick that a cut could truly just be a scratch and a scratch could be a large laceration. I got a call from the yard one day that an inmate had cut his wrist while playing basketball. So I say send him to me. Turns out he had sliced his wrist open on the razor wire. Upon the release of the pressure he was holding bright red blood goes squirting across the room. Got to love an arterial bleed, sent that one to the ER Johnny on the spot!

You have to keep on your toes because small complaints can be serious problems. For examples a classic headache complaint could maybe be a hypertensive induced headache or intracranial bleed. Needless to say, if the guard called me with an inmate complaint, I wanted to see them with my own eyes and assess them myself, and not try evaluate a complaint via the guards description. So I would usually end up seeing too many people at night at would get in trouble because of this. I still didn’t stop seeing sick patients at night and I’m glad I didn’t! For example I did have a guy complaining of nausea and vomiting, so I had him brought to the infirmary. Turns out on my assessment, I found he had a low grade fever and right sided rebound tenderness. Classic signs for appendicitis. So do not pass go, do not collect $200 just call the ER and give report while my patient is in transit for an ER assessment. Turns out he was in the operating room in less than 2 hours of leaving my infirmary having his appendix removed. I’m a nurse and my job is to take care of my patients, so that’s what I do.

So the independence was good. But one thing I HATED about this particular prison is that we actually had to enter the barracks if something was wrong i.e seizure, passing out etc. Instead of having a protected pill window where the inmates could come to us, we had a pill cart that we had to push down the corridors during pill pass time. I can’t tell you how many times I was called a mother fucking bitch when I first started this job. They try to scare you and get you shaken. At first you get constantly cursed at and berated. The worst would be the ones that masturbate while you’re passing pills. I just never let it phase me. You can’t curse back at them, or it’s an infringement on their rights…lol. I just treated them with respect, calling them sir or Mr. whoever, while taking the best care of them as possible. It didn’t take long for the population to notice this, and before I knew it, the respect was returned.

In this prison you had certain people that led the pack. You just didn’t mess with them or their friends. The respect was returned full force one night when one inmate started in on me calling me a bitch, fucking slut, etc. One of the “big guys” told him to sit down and shut the fuck up. Word spread pretty quickly about that and for the most part I didn’t have much trouble after that. I just kept taking care of my patients the best way I knew how. I lasted there about a year, but when I got an offer to become an operating room nurse, I quickly said yes and was on my way. I learned so much that year assessing all of those patients, and I am a better nurse because of that experience, but man I am really glad to be out of that place!

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  1. Evette says:

    Hi I loved this article!

  2. Amyee says:

    I will be starting LVN school in Jan. and I am very interested in Correctional nursing. I am gonna hit my 23yr old mark in a few months and am a female. So when family and friends here that I want to help care for some of the most rude men on the planet. . .they stress i think otherwise. Did u get this type of response before starting ur career at the prision? If so, what was your views on it? I know I still have so many areas to see while on clinicals, however. . .I think I still would love the prision atmosphere, in the sense that u can work nights and dont have a rude doctor over u like a cloud calling out every mistake u make. ALSO, I have heard that the prison guards are worse then the prisons!! Is this correct? And as far as charting goes in correctional nursing. . .is it roughly the same as in the clinics and hospital setting? AGAIN thanks for posting this! Since my interest in Prision Nursing I have been googling any type of first hand expeirences from nurses that were available to read online. . .hope you get a chance to write back !! Hope YOUR LOVING the OR!!!

    • Amyee one thing I can tell you is that no matter what field you decide to practice in , there will be a rude Dr. yelling at you…lol. As far as the guards being worse than the prisoners…not at all. My guards were wonderful and took amazing care of me. One thing I would check into is what type of prison are you going to be in? Federal or state, maximum or minimum this will have a huge effect on your inmate population. Charting as in all nursing is the same basic rule, if you didn’t chart it, you didn’t do it. I believe you are more likely to be friviously sued in a prison setting. You just have to remember as odd as this sounds, that murderer, that raped a woman, slit her throat, wrapped her in a carpet and burned her…. in the prison world ,has more rights than you. Think about it, if he throws a cup of bodily fluid in your face, what are they going to do, put him in prison? The inmates can be put into ad-seg “isolation” for these types of offenses but, some will do it intentionally if they are having a problem in general population. It was a very interesting job and some love it, it just wasn’t for me. Congrats to you on your nursing career, keep up the hard work, it’s sooooo worth it!!

  3. Loni Nicole says:

    Hey, I am a freshman in college and I am studying to be a nurse. My friend Sam, who is a boy, told me that I should work in a prison because I am not really afraid of them. To a lot of my friends I am the tough girl. Do you think that I should work in a prison? What are your thoughts on that?

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