I thought that I was so brave, accepting this assignment on the jail ward , where is my courage now?
After finishing report and locating essential nursing supplies, I knew it was time to face the inmates.
Taking the large cool ring in my hand, I fumble for the key. Trembling, I unlocked the first door. Six patients quickly made their way to their beds. Trying to look confident and experienced, I did my best Nurse Ratchet impression.
I loudly announced, “Listen up men, you will do as I say and nothing else. One false move and I will have a sheriff in here to rock your world.”
Well, not quite…
Approaching the first patient, I muster up a sentence. “Are you John Smith?” He politely replies, “Yes, nurse”.
Okay, I think I am going to be alright.
Taking vital signs and making assessments went better than I expected. I was treated appropriately and with respect. Drama was the last thing that I wanted.
One patient stood out in my mind. When I had received report on Mr. Jones I was surprised to find that his crime was revealed to me. The diagnosis, Methyl Bromide poisoning. You see, this fellow Jones, he was never cut out to be a brain surgeon. He and a buddy had decided to rob a “vacant” house. Unfortunately their brilliant plan had almost killed them. The owners were not home because…the house was being fumigated! Luckily for him, a neighbor heard the ruckus and called the police. The two hoodlums were unconscious when they were taken into custody. As I took care of Mr. Jones, I found him to be alert and oriented. His assessment was normal. Soon he would leave the luxury and sweet nurses of the jail ward and return to the big house.
Entering the only private room on my list, my level of anxiety decreased. A frail man lay before me. Knowing his crime would probably have sent shivers up my spine. He was serving multiple life sentences. While changing sheets and giving a bed bath, I contemplated the man before me. He would no longer be a risk to society, I thought. Severe brain damage had left him in a coma. Months before he had managed to use his sheet to form a noose, he had hanged himself.
No, he would never be a threat again.
The day wound down and the night shift nurse reporting for duty assumed care of my prisoner patients. Walking back down the now familiar hallways, I returned to the sheriff’s desk and that menacing steel door. “Key,” the desk sergeant murmured and put out his hand. Reaching out, he grabbed the key and handed back my identification badge. He pushed a hidden button and the massive metal doors slowly opened…
unlike many inside, I was free to go.