Up-and-Coming Nurse Niches
Megan Malugani | Monster Contributing Writer
A nurse is a nurse is a nurse, right? Wrong. Nursing jobs are extraordinarily varied and diverse. Here’s a snapshot of four specialized nursing niches that even healthcare professionals may know little about.
Nurses who work behind bars with the nation’s 2 million inmates and juvenile offenders deal with a range of medical problems, from toothaches to trauma. “A lot of our clients don’t have access to healthcare easily,” says Gayle Burrow, MPH, BSN, director of corrections health for the Multnomah County Health Department in Portland, Oregon. “Correctional nurses like the fact that we get to take care of people who need a lot of services and education.”
Because correctional nurses work autonomously – assessing new inmates, helping manage the chronic diseases and mental illnesses of long-term prisoners and responding to acute illnesses and injuries – they must be confident, mature and well-rounded. In addition, they “must have the ability to look at a person not by what they do, but for who they are,” says Burrow, a certified corrections health professional who is on the board of the American Correctional Health Services Association.
Nursing in prisons and jails is safe, she says, because guards are always nearby and the environments are carefully controlled.
Nurses have always worked with victims and perpetrators of violent crime, but it wasn’t until the early ’90s that “forensic nursing” became a common description for this work. Now, there are an estimated 7,500 nurses who regularly fill forensic-nursing roles, from those who work full-time investigating deaths or treating violent offenders at psychiatric facilities to those who moonlight as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) or legal nurse consultants. “A lot of us in the field have the hope that our interventions are going to help break the cycle of abuse and violence,” says Daniel J. Sheridan, PhD, RN, president of the International Association of Forensic Nurses.
While the television show CSI has sparked an interest in forensics, Hollywood’s portrayal of forensic nursing is misleading, he says. “There are exciting moments, but you have to be patient, methodical and thorough in your assessments in order to withstand the scrutiny of court,” says Sheridan, who runs a master’s degree program in forensic nursing at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. “You have to look for even the smallest sign of injury to show that an assault did or did not occur.”
Nurses can get a taste of forensic nursing by participating in one of the more than 420 SANE programs offered at hospitals and other sites around the country, Sheridan says.