10 things I wish I knew before becoming a correctional nurse

By C1 Staff

The job of a correctional nurse can be just as dangerous as that of a correctional officer; it’s certainly not a medical career to choose lightly. We took to Facebook to ask our readers what they wish they knew before taking up the job of caring for those who break society’s laws.

Here are the top ten best responses. If you have more to add, feel free to speak up in the comments.

(Photo Brian Feulner/The Oregonian)
(Photo Brian Feulner/The Oregonian)

Katie Maloy: The importance of a good rapport with the correctional officers. Without these men and women we couldn't safely do our job.

Valerie White: I wish I'd have known how challenging it would be to be "good" at the job. Nursing isn't easy in any aspect but in a correctional facility, assessment skills have to be 100. If you're not on point, things can easily be overlooked. Some inmates cry wolf just for attention, while some had rather just sit in their cell with a serious condition just because they don't want to be a bother. And then there are some who will seek medical attention for an injury but for their own safety, never give you the full story of what happened ... a true diagnosis and proper treatment is hard to accomplish if you just take things at face value. I loved being a correctional nurse. I'm sure I'll be back at it before much longer. I miss it.

Kathy Cannon: First, I wished I had done it earlier in my career. However, life experience allowed me to handle the manipulation with ease that I saw newer RNs struggled with. I was not aware before I started that the medical unit was like a small ER. Having more experience certainly was a plus. Also I noticed that having psych experience would have been helpful.

Sara K Rossi: I wish I'd known how to better trust my intuition. Also, even though there are plenty of manipulative folks out there, there are tons more who are thankful I'm there.

Marsha Davis: I really wish I had known how much I would enjoy doing this line of work. Never did I imagine that it would be "my thing." It is hard, challenging and dirty at times, with exposure to a wide variety of ailments and injuries. It is a world unto itself. As you walk through those doors, the world as you knew it ceases to exist. It becomes self-contained in so many ways. Your assessment skills and your ability to handle the different situations is unlike anything that you ever learned in school or practiced in an outside medical facility. It would be easy to become jaded and hard core, but to give your “patients” the best care you need to keep your humanity. That is what I strive to teach my orientees. Keep your humanity!

Toree Eldridge: How to handle dangerous situations. As a nurse, first response is to act. But you have to step back from that learned habit and think about safety first.

Samantha Kuplicki: I wish I had understood the psychological boundaries better. You're not there to make enemies, but you're not there to make people happy either. Set firm standards with yourself and you'll more easily be able to do so with inmates.

Amanda Musick: I love how it taught me to be a better nurse. You never know what is going to happen and you have to learn to deal with something traumatic in that moment. Yes something unexpected happens everywhere but in corrections it's a whole different world.

Tina Nevarez: I wish I would have known what a pain it can be sometimes to have everything locked up … and I wish I never knew why they request so much muscle rub! Ew!

Carmen Caraway: You have to be really thick-skinned to do this job.

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