I recently spoke to nurses at a jail health conference. Boy, I thought I had worked in some tough patient situations until I spoke with these folks. The attendees were all employed by the department of corrections delivering healthcare services to inmates in jails, maximum security prisons and everything in between.
As I was preparing for my presentation, I kept thinking about how different this population was from any that I had served. I even wondered if I could be effective because of this until one of the nurse managers said something that took me back to the baseline. She reminded me that they are human beings caring for human beings. She said that the need for competent skills is essential but the need to preserve human dignity and provide service is just as vital with inmates as it is in any other setting. I felt humbled by her words and thought about how easy it can be to slip into a mindset that, as healthcare professionals, we’re doing the patient a favor by providing service. In fact, I have heard people actually say that they are doing their patients a favor.
This experience was a great reminder for me that healthcare, regardless of the setting or the population being served, is really about human beings serving human beings. We’re not doing them a favor. And when we sign on for a career in healthcare, we need to always keep this in mind.