Nationwide Nursing Shortage: Is It Causing Stress within Correctional Facilities?

Article excerpt

We are at the beginning of the worst nursing shortage in history, according to Cheryl Peterson, MSN, R.N., in the January issue of the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing article, "Nursing Shortage: Not a Simple Problem -- No Easy Answers." Nurses across the country are experiencing the grip of this fast-moving shortage, including those who work in correctional facilities.

Factors that are influencing the shortage include the increasing age of working nurses, the potential for retirement, reduced enrollment in nursing programs, poor compensation and increased demands.

The increase in the diversity of the field is another reason for the shortage; 20 years ago, most nurses worked in a hospital setting or physician's office. However, throughout the years, other nursing positions have become available, including those in the areas of home health care, legal nurse consulting, case management and emergency care. Simply stated, the demand and increasing number of patients is bypassing the available supply.

Correctional nursing is a relatively new concept. Although not having trained medical staff in a correctional facility is unfathomable to corrections, up until 15 to 20 years ago, correctional officers dispensed medication and provided first aid, to name just a few duties.

Due to the Eighth Amendment and the Estelle v. Gamble ruling, which states, "Inmates cannot have deliberate medical neglect" and "Inmates are entitled to the same quality medical care as the general public," correctional administrators have realized that nurses are needed to provide it. Today, most correctional facilities have nurses, although the size of nursing staff and amount of coverage vary with each facility.

Administrators in corrections should be concerned about the nursing shortage. The actions of medical departments and their staff may directly impact the number of inmate complaints, as well as medical lawsuits brought against the correctional facility. Correctional and medical administrators must work together to provide the resources necessary for the required "standard of care" entitled to each inmate.

Everyday Stress

Stress is the psychological and physiological reaction that takes place when one perceives an imbalance in the demand level and the capacity to meet that demand.

There are many ways stress enters people's lives. …