Having become a nurse after many years in other customer service work, Alisha Luke, RN, BSN, describes her beliefs about nursing and her greatest learning experience. Alisha, who currently works for The MetroHealth System as a Correctional Nurse, offers advice to others considering the profession.
My experiences dealing with the public for more than 20 years prior to becoming a nurse have informed the way in which I interact with patients. I feel that integrity is at the core of nursing as is a holistic view of others. I have found that patients will allow you to care for them in any capacity if you show them you are willing to do whatever it takes to keep them healthy and safe. What I mean by holistic is seeing the entire person—not just the illness or the wound, but the social, economic, personal, and emotional aspects as well as the fears, concerns and expectations of a patient. Being aware of all of these components allows for a clearer picture of the needs and care required for a successful admission and aftercare. Now I love to encourage future nurses to become leaders in patient center care.
My responsibilities as a correctional nurse are to assess the mental health and medical needs of my patients, de-escalate situations, and keep my patients stable while they regain medication compliance and autonomy. I also enjoy collaborating with other disciplines to develop a seamless care plan to support patients while incarcerated and when transiting back into the community. There is always growth, respect, and commitment when other perspectives are considered and welcomed.
I feel nurses should receive desensitization training when dealing with the mental health population. Role-playing and case studies allow nurses to imagine and think about situations that can arise without notice. These experiences can help a nurse in my area reflect on the roadblocks and outcomes of mental health situations they have encountered.
My greatest learning experience was becoming a caregiver and being that person on the other side of the bed—the helplessness I felt, the support and education I needed when my loved ones were transiting to death or my mother was diagnosed with dementia. These experiences gave me greater insight into how my patients and their loved ones felt. It made me become a better advocate and educator and it taught me to have more empathy and compassion for my patients.
To anyone interested in nursing, my advice would be to do some soul searching—take time to look within yourself for any beliefs that may prevent you from giving and having an open mind for care. Then be open to what may come your way to lead you to your area of nursing. I never thought in a million years that my passion would lie in Mental Health Correctional Nursing. Nursing is a lifetime of learning. Once you become a nurse, treat each patient as you would want your own family treated. Then you will always do your best.