Why I quit prison nursing. Part 1. Fake seizures, fake bloody vomit.

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Prison nursing

cellblockA few weeks ago, my bud @nursewendy, posted about the generalities about prison nursing. (You can read her post here: Prison nursing facts)
The first thing I’m going to warn you about, and I did say warn you, if you are offended by foul language and hard core facts stop reading now. Ok, there’s the disclaimer. So here’s the scoop.
My very first job out of nursing school was as a state prison and county jail nurse. I only lasted a year before throwing in the towel. The way I found this job was through an assignment I was given in nursing school. The assignment was to explore all the career options in nursing. I don’t remember if I was given the jail nurse topic, or if I chose it on my own, but regardless, I had some research to do and a paper to write. When I contacted the director of nurses that was over the county jail to set up an interview, I had no idea I would be so intrigued by what they did. During my interview, I discovered these nurses were not only responsible for the county jail but they were also responsible for a medium security prison.
We also housed maximum security prisoners in a medium security facility. We had an array of murderers, rapist, armed robbers etc. Everyone that’s arrested for whatever crime is going to be housed in county first, before trial and sentencing. I was responsible for an inmate pool that ranged between 700-750 people between both facilities. Each 12 hour shift (7-7) included 2 nurses ( lvn/lpns) that alternated back and forth between both facilities, needless to say we were extremely busy. Our duties included dispensing medications, wound care, dressing changes. and most importantly, TRIAGE and emergency care.
One of the first things I learned about prison/jail nursing is that NO ONE besides the medical staff and the guards involved for transport are allowed to know when an inmate is scheduled for a Dr’s appt. Rationale: if the inmate knows when they are going to be taken out of the facility, it’s easier for them to plan an escape attempt with help from the outside. So one thing we would see on a frequent basis would be attempts to get sent to the Emergency Department. One of my favorites was the fake seizure. These were usually impressive displays, and would always draw a nice crowd in the barracks. Chest pain would likely be the most common complaint used to try to get to the hospital. Another fairly common practice among inmates would be jamming a toothbrush down the back of their throat to instill bleeding,and then use the “I’m throwing up blood” excuse.
Now in this facility, during the hours I worked, there was no R.N. or M.D. in house. They were readily available by telephone call to help assess whatever situation would arise that day, and trust me, there was something CRAZY happening every single shift I worked. What I HATED most was that we had certain protocols we had to follow prior to seeing an inmate. I worked the night shift and if a patient wanted to be seen, they had to put in a sick call request to be seen the next day. I was only to see emergencies on the night shift. Now before I go any further let me say one thing. When I took an oath as a nurse to take the utmost care of my patients I meant it! Even though some of these men were rapist, murderers and child molesters they were still MY PATIENTS regardless of what they had done. Trust me; on a personal level I may have felt differently about them, but as a nurse, I was going to make sure they received the care they needed.
Tomorrow, I’ll mention some of the positives, like the independence I had, but in the end I still left prison nursing.

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Comments

  1. halle says:

    Hey this is a very interesting article!

  2. john says:

    Its certain that not everyone is cut out for correctional nursing. there is no shame in throwing in the towel. I have been a correctional nurse since december and i love it! It is also true that there are protocols to follow and it is important to understand that SECURITY is the number one priorty of all employees including medical staff. In nursing school you are taught the ABC’s. you have to leave that at the door and replace it with SABC. security airway breathing circulation. it can be ashame at times but the publics safety comes before the well being of a convict.

  3. JAN KEPPLER says:

    I THINK THAT CORRECTIONAL NURSING IS MORE OR LESS FOR THE SEASONED NURSE. SOMEONE WHO IS NOT OFFENDED (TOO MUCH) BY THE FOUL LANGUAGE NOT ONLY FROM THE INMATES BUT THE OFFICERS AS WELL, THE CONSTANT JACKING OFF OF THE MALE INMATES. THEY ACTUALLY CUT SLITS IN THEIR JUMPSUITS SO THEY HAVE INSTANT ACCESS TO THEIR PRIVATES SO WHEN A WOMAN ESP ON MEDICAL WALKS BY THEY CAN JACK OFF. THEY ARE VERY DIFFICULT TO TREAT AS THEY LIE CONSTANTLY, MANIPULATE CONSTANTLY TO GET WHAT THEY WANT. WE WERE TOLD IN OUR ORIENTATION THAT THEY MUST GET WHAT THE NEED, BUT NOT ALWAYS WHAT THEY WANT. THE BEST WAY TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE WITH INMATES IS TO REMEMBER WHERE YOU ARE AND WHO YOU ARE DEALING WITH. I HAVE SEEN SEVERAL FINE NURSE WALKED OUT OF OUR PRISON BECAUSE OF INMATE DEALINGS. IF YOU HAVE A SOFT HEART, OR ARE IMMATURE IN YEARS AND NURSING THIS IS NOT THE PLACE FOR YOU. NURSING IS NURSING NO MATTER WHERE YOU ARE, BUT PRISON NURSING REQUIRES A LOT OF MATURITY. IT IS DEFINITLY NOT FOR YOUNG NURSES. JAN KEPPLER, RN

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