Not many people can appreciate the challenges that incarcerated individuals face. That is why it takes nurses with keen insights to meet their needs. Denise Striker, BSN, RN, CNOR, explains her perspective on this role.
I am a MetroHealth nurse assigned to work at the Cuyahoga County Correctional facility located in downtown Cleveland. I received my R.N. after graduating from Lorain County community College in 1983. Later I earned my B.S.N. from Ohio University in 2017. In addition to working, I am currently a student at Cleveland State University working on a Master of Science degree in Forensic Nursing. This area of nursing is a relatively new one. I have chosen to pursue this educational degree because it will open up even more opportunities and allow me to help many different populations.
I chose to be a correctional nurse because I feel this is an underserved population. Since starting at the correctional facility in July of 2019, I have seen may positive changes in the health care that the patients receive. Yes, I said patients. Our facility takes care of individuals with very complicated health issues that I must address on a daily basis. The patients that we see may be addicted to drugs and alcohol, and many of them have not seen any medical personnel in years. These patients may also have many other medical problems that haven’t been addressed. Mental health issues, homelessness, hypertension, diabetes, and wounds are just a few of the challenges that they face. Correctional nurses must address numerous multidisciplinary areas while providing nursing care to this population, a fact that is not understood or appreciated by many people.
When I first started in this role, the medical staff would chart and refer to the patients as “the inmate.” I believed that it was not appropriate for me or any other healthcare professional to apply that label to individuals in custody while speaking or charting. One change that I have worked to implement is changing how staff members refer to our patients. I try to teach new nurses and staff that they are our “patients” not our “inmates.” Correctional nurses should not judge patients by what they might have done. Our job is to take care of our patients without bias. I am proud to be a MetroHealth nurse and to be a part of the positive changes we are making for this population of patients. I love my job!