Nurses working with inmates in the prison system, comment

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The registered nurse does indeed have a unique opportunity to educate prison inmates on health related topics. Some inmates with chronic illnesses such as diabetes may have mismanaged their health for reasons such as poverty, drug addiction, alcoholism or a life style of denial. Once the individual is incarcerated, the nurse has an opportunity to teach and educate. For instance, the diabetic person might be taught the signs and symptoms of hyper/hypoglycemia, the disease process, and interventions he or she can take to slow the disease progression. While some might believe the inmate does not have the freedom to practice proactive interventions, there are many things he could do – such as exercise, food choices at commissary, foot protection and inspection, and learning about medications. Nurses who will be checking blood sugars can educate on this important intervention, as well as drawing up and giving insulin, accuracy and timing of insulin administration, storage of insulin and proper needle disposal. Another important consequence of diabetes is heart disease and hypertension and the inmate could be taught normal blood pressure and pulse values and, as mentioned in the original post, techniques to manage stress and identify signs of heart attack. While prison food might not be the best, some inmates can apply to work in the kitchen and may be able to influence the food preparation and selection. It is important for nurses to remember that the inmate is not a bad person, but a person who has made bad choices; these choices are frequently carried over to their own personal health management. Taking the time to teach may have a long lasting impact on both the physical and emotional health of the inmate, not only during the period of incarceration, but throughout the lifespan of the individual.

Original Post
May 25, 2009
Title: Nurses working with inmates in the prison system
Working in the prison system is part of forensic nursing. The registered nurse working with inmates has a unique opportunity to implement health promotion activities. Patients who are incarcerated have a lot of time on their hands and perhaps some of that time could be used for learning about disease prevention. Many inmates come into the prison system already suffering from multiple medical problems. Many of them have chronic illnesses such as diabetes or hypertension, others have communicable diseases. Mental illness and substance abuse are also common in the prison system. Patients who are healthy when they come into the system are also at risk for developing health problems because of risky behaviors that often take place among inmates. Nurses must assess for some of the risk factors and develop a treatment plan appropriately. As part of the treatment plan, nurses could teach their patients about disease management, disease prevention and health promotion. Some examples of teaching may include having the patient identify signs and symptoms of a heart attack. Nurses could also teach patients relaxation techniques and stress management. Forensic nursing offers a unique opportunity for nurses to really make a difference in an inmate’s quality of life.

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