McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Jailhouse rocks for new nurse

By Amanda Boundris
Published: November 11, 2011
Tamika Egerton
Tamika Egerton

Tamika Egerton loves it in jail.

"I absolutely love what I’m doing, I love my career," said Egerton, who was recently hired to work as a nurse at Maplehurst Correctional Complex in Milton, Ontario.

When she first started a clinical placement at Maplehurst in January, Ian Clarke, her manager and a McMaster nursing alumnus, explained that he likes to bring students on board to learn about correctional nursing, a field not very well-known. He also talked about potential job opportunities down the road. And after completing her nursing studies at McMaster University, Egerton was hired to work at the facility.

On Friday, Nov. 18 Egerton will be one of 30 graduates awarded their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) degree during the 2:30 p.m. convocation ceremony at Hamilton Place. In addition to these graduates of the McMaster Mohawk Conestoga BScN Program, 16 master's nursing students and one PhD student will receive graduate degrees. Graduates from the rest of McMaster’s Faculty of Health Sciences, and the Faculties of Science and Engineering will also receive their degrees at this ceremony.

According to the Canadian Nurses Association, nurses represent the largest group of health care professionals working in the correctional system, addressing the health care needs of inmates from once they enter the system, through transfers to other institutions and to their eventual release into the community.

Egerton finds her work has unique challenges, adding that the biggest switch from traditional nursing is that in a prison setting the patient’s health is still a top priority, but the main focus is on security. Cameras are everywhere and rather than working one-on-one with a patient, nurses are not allowed to be in the room with an inmate without a correctional officer present.

"The relationships with your patients are different. It can be difficult to build a therapeutic, trusting relationship with a patient because a correctional officer is always there," she explained. "But while being a challenge, it can be very fulfilling at the same time if you’re up for it. You have to learn to work like the officer isn’t there."

Another challenge is that the scope of what nurses can do is different than in a hospital setting. "The treatment outcomes can be different because the steps we can take differ from what we would do in a regular hospital, since we don’t have the same technologies available to us," she said.

What Egerton likes most about her job is the uniqueness of it and it being like having several different units in one place. She treats patients with cancer and diabetes, to those suffering trauma from car accidents or gunshot wounds. "Every day is not the same. It’s not your traditional bedside nursing where you see the same things on the floor day in and day out," said Egerton.

She would tell anyone interested in correctional nursing to have an open mind. "The main barrier is the fear of the unknown and the fear of working with inmates, but I’ve never felt safer in my nursing practice due to the high level of security."

Egerton is proud to be graduating as a nurse from McMaster, which she believes "definitely has a challenging four-year program, so it’s an accomplishment in itself regardless of what job you get when you finish, to feel confident and say that you’ve learned enough to go out and help the public."

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