Media Releases

U of T research shows workplace relationships are challenging for nurses working in prisons

November 25, 2010

TORONTO, ON — Health care needs ver­sus secu­ri­ty demands: What takes pri­or­i­ty?  Bal­anc­ing secu­ri­ty needs and health care ser­vices may not be the going con­cern of your aver­age nurse, but the role of the cor­rec­tion­al nurse is any­thing but aver­age. Health care in provin­cial cor­rec­tion­al insti­tu­tions is a unique com­bi­na­tion of all types of nurs­ing.

Approx­i­mate­ly 500 nurs­es work in Ontario’s provin­cial cor­rec­tion­al sys­tem car­ing for almost 9,000 peo­ple, yet, until now, the role of the cor­rec­tion­al nurse had not been com­pre­hen­sive­ly stud­ied in Cana­da. “Under­stand­ing the per­spec­tives cor­rec­tion­al nurs­es have on health­care for inmate patients and the impact of pro­vid­ing that care in this non-tra­di­tion­al set­ting is crit­i­cal to pro­vid­ing appro­pri­ate sup­port,” said Lin­da Ogilvie, Man­ag­er of Cor­po­rate Health Care, Min­istry of Com­mu­ni­ty Safe­ty and Cor­rec­tion­al Ser­vices

The U of T Bloomberg Fac­ul­ty of Nurs­ing study, Explor­ing Work­life Issues in Provin­cial Cor­rec­tion­al Set­tings, led by Dr. Joan Almost and Dr. Diane Doran, iden­ti­fied a num­ber of key issues that dif­fer­en­ti­ates nurs­ing in cor­rec­tion­al set­tings from oth­er sec­tors. “Meet­ing the nurs­es who work in these set­tings and see­ing their pas­sion, tour­ing some of the facil­i­ties and then ana­lyz­ing our data has giv­en me an appre­ci­a­tion for the chal­leng­ing work envi­ron­ments that these nurs­es have,” said Dr. Almost.

To work in this sec­tor, nurs­es need to have strong assess­ment skills and the abil­i­ty to inter­act pro­fes­sion­al­ly with a chal­leng­ing clien­tele. Com­pared to oth­er sec­tors, cor­rec­tion­al nurs­es encounter more con­flict in the work­place with the strain of emo­tion­al abuse from inmates, lead­ing to high­er lev­els of job dis­sat­is­fac­tion and feel­ings of deper­son­al­iza­tion.

On the oth­er hand, only 4% of the study par­tic­i­pants have expe­ri­enced phys­i­cal abuse from inmate patients, less than the gen­er­al nurs­ing pop­u­la­tion. Com­pared to nurs­es in acute care, nurs­es in cor­rec­tion­al set­tings also indi­cate a slight­ly high­er intent to stay in their cur­rent posi­tions and low­er lev­el of emo­tion­al exhaus­tion.  These find­ings sug­gest that in spite of com­plex health needs in cor­rec­tion­al set­tings, for cer­tain indi­vid­u­als, this envi­ron­ment may be ulti­mate­ly more reward­ing.

“Through their relent­less efforts to estab­lish ther­a­peu­tic rela­tion­ships with inmates and dai­ly use of inno­va­tion in their prac­tice, nurs­es are shap­ing the face of health care in Ontar­i­o’s cor­rec­tion­al facil­i­ties,” said Dr. Vanes­sa Burkos­ki, Provin­cial Chief Nurs­ing Office, Min­istry of Health and Long-Term Care, “Rec­og­niz­ing the unique cir­cum­stances in which Ontar­i­o’s cor­rec­tion­al nurs­es prac­tice and the valu­able con­tri­bu­tion that they make in pro­vid­ing access to health care, the Nurs­ing Sec­re­tari­at was very pleased to fund this study.”  Dr. Doran con­cludes “This study shows that inter­ven­tions spe­cif­ic to the cor­rec­tion­al work envi­ron­ment are need­ed to increase job sat­is­fac­tion and reduce burnout, in order to attract recruits and increase the capac­i­ty of nurs­es cur­rent­ly in this sec­tor.”

“Nurs­ing in cor­rec­tions is extreme­ly demand­ing and chal­leng­ing but very reward­ing… if giv­en the prop­er resources, the oppor­tu­ni­ty is there to real­ly teach, influ­ence and care for a pop­u­la­tion of peo­ple that real­ly needs us and do appre­ci­ate us.”

“I love my job! What I do affects my clients, their fam­i­lies and the pub­lic at large.”

“Every moment is dif­fer­ent. It’s a very fast paced, ever chang­ing envi­ron­ment, demand­ing… peo­ple don’t see what nurs­es do in cor­rec­tion­al set­tings. They don’t real­ize we have acute patients just like they do in a hos­pi­tal. We do most of the same treat­ments that a hos­pi­tal nurse would do.”

“Work­ing in cor­rec­tion­al nurs­ing is an ongo­ing chal­lenge. It is a con­stant bat­tle between health care needs ver­sus secu­ri­ty con­cerns. It is often dif­fi­cult to hire and retain nurs­es because of the pay scale.”

“While not as phys­i­cal­ly demand­ing as work­ing in a hos­pi­tal, work­ing in a jail is men­tal­ly exhaust­ing.”


For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact:

Joan Almost
Co-Prin­ci­pal Inves­ti­ga­tor Explor­ing Work­life Issues in Provin­cial Cor­rec­tion­al Set­tings Bloomberg Fac­ul­ty of Nurs­ing, is avail­able to expand and elab­o­rate on the find­ings in this study.
416 ‑978‑4567