Correctional nursing allows the nurse to practice the essence of nursing while recognizing that all patients have intrinsic value.Achieving and staying true to professional nursing values while practicing in the correctional setting can create a unique set of ethical, legal and professional issues for the nurse.Based on the information provided, the nurse must determine the type and level of nursing intervention required, and then implement an action.
Inmates have several ways to access health care, such as by submitting a request slip or form.
Another way is through oral communication, for example, by telling a correctional officer of a need to be seen by medical, or mentioning a health concern to the nurse during medication administration.
The basis for litigation can relate to negligence, failing to exercise the level of care that a reasonable, prudent nurse would under similar circumstances; malpractice; and professional negligence, which means an act of neglect committed in the nurse’s professional role.
Acts of omission and commission will also subject the nurse to litigation and professional license review.
Compounding this, inmate-patients encounter nurses more than any other type of health care provider.
Failure to provide inmates with access to health care to meet their serious medical needs can be litigated under the Eighth Amendment as deliberate indifference or under the 14th Amendment as a civil rights violation.
Regardless of the method, the nurse has a legal and ethical obligation to respond to the request for care.
In general, the nurse should see the patient to evaluate health needs and determine the level of care required.
It is always appropriate for the nurse to follow up to evaluate the inmate’s response to the intervention.
However the nurse is apprised of an inmate’s health needs, the nurse must document the health needs, how notification of the health need occurred, actions taken and the patient outcome.
Both litigation and professional license review can result in reprimand of a nurse’s license or loss of a license.