Correctional nurse gratitude for correctional officers on Thanksgiving

Columnist Lorry Schoenly offers thanks to those who will likely be working on this holiday

This post originally appeared on Lorry's personal blog,

I am a whiner – ask anyone who knows me. In fact, check out last year’s post on this topic. But, that’s why I love Thanksgiving – a season when I can re-center myself on all the blessings of life and the people who do so much with so little recognition. This Thanksgiving season I have been pondering the great contribution of correctional officers to both public safety and the personal safety of correctional nurses throughout the criminal justice system. I wish to share a great big THANK YOU To our correctional officer colleagues who keep us safe every workday. Here are my 5 reasons I am thankful for correctional officers:

REASON #1: They have our backs

Correctional officers protect us while we work. In a profession of escalating workplace violence, correctional nurses have a lot of protection – much more than counterparts in traditional settings. Nurse colleagues working in urban emergency units may be taking care of a patient population with a similar violence demographic, but they often have much less protection. Thank you for keeping us safe.

REASON #2: They are healthcare colleagues

That’s right, correctional officers collaborate with correctional nurses about many health issues and are often the first to contact nurses about a medical or mental health situation. Housing unit officers know the lifestyles of their charges and initiate emergency action when a health situation is deteriorating. Thank you for working together with us toward a common goal.

REASON #3: They know the same professional stigma

Correctional nurses know ‘that look’ from a new acquaintance or fellow professional when they find out we work in a jail or prison. Although this is changing, there is still a stigma to working in the correctional setting. Colleagues can question your motivation, consider you unskilled enough for a ‘real’ nursing position, or think you have committed professional suicide by taking a position in our specialty. Correctional officers have that same stigma in the criminal justice system. Police, State Troopers, or the Feds sometimes stigmatize our correctional officer colleagues. We both struggle to take pride in our profession. Thank you for choosing to be a correctional officer!

REASON #4: They are invisible to the public

Many of our neighbors don’t even know that nurses work in jails and prisons. I certainly didn’t before I started in our specialty. The public would prefer to remain unaware of the thousands of people locked away in the criminal justice system. The invisible nature of incarceration hangs a long shadow over those who work behind bars as well. Thank you for keeping the public safe even when they do not want to know about it.

REASON #5: They are probably working this holiday, too

I know this sounds so naive, but I didn’t realize I would be working holidays and weekends when I started my nursing training. It was a real eye-opener and a lifestyle changer. Like nurses, correctional officers pull duty 24/7 to keep us and the public safe. This is easy to forget when we sit down to our Thanksgiving bounty and the football games or parades that fill on our holiday schedule. Thank you for keeping us safe while we celebrate.

Will you join me in being thankful for our correctional officer colleagues? Share an experience or gratitude in the comment section of this post.

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