Title of Article‘If we truly cared’: understanding barriers to person-centred nursing in correctional facilities
Type of ArticleOriginal Practice Development and Research
Author/sPele Solell and Kylie Smith
ReferenceVolume 9, Issue 2, Article 7
Date of PublicationNovember 2019
KeywordsCorrectional nursing, criminal justice, human rights, person-centred care, prison health, quality care

Background: Incarcerated people in the US are an often forgotten patient population with legal rights to healthcare. Correctional nurses are required to enact ethical and quality care regardless of any bias about patients’ backgrounds. However, correctional structures and institutional power relations restrict nurses’ free expressions of care.

Aim: This qualitative study explored US nurses’ experiences and perceptions of caring in carceral environments to analyse the possibilities of and barriers to enacting person-centred care for incarcerated people.

Methods: Data were collected in REDCap, an online survey tool, through six demographic questions and six open-ended questions. A convenience sample of 78 correctional nurses was identified through US nursing associations. Responses were analysed by thematic analysis. Full ethical approval was obtained.

Results: Nurses identified the carceral environment and considerations of security as barriers to care. Other barriers included biases that nurses and correctional officers bring to their work. Yet many correctional nurses seek to provide compassionate care and advocacy despite these challenges. Within the findings, three main themes emerged: types of care; barriers to care; and strategies for change.

Conclusions: There has been little examination of theoretical frameworks regarding the implementation of nursing values that may enable care for the person, rather than a ‘prisoner-patient.’ Correctional nursing is thwarted by existing historical and structural barriers that can dehumanise incarcerated patients. Nursing care in correctional facilities should be considered within the context of implicit biases, the care environment and the person receiving care.

Implications for practice:

  • The Person-centred Practice Framework provides a potential way forward for addressing nursing biases and structural awareness
  • An expanded understanding of the care environment as a prerequisite encourages correctional nurses to engage with the historical, economic and political forces that act against person-centred nursing in correctional facilities

This article by Pele Solell and Kylie Smith is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 3.0 License.

In this section