Correctional medicine staff provide medically necessary care to some of America’s nearly 2 million incarcerated people. This non-traditional health care environment has unique challenges that teach important lessons
The Patients Don’t Leave, So You Improve Communication Skills
In traditional health care environments, patients and providers fire each other. Firings can happen for a number of reasons. Maybe the patient disagrees with the provider’s recommendations. Or perhaps the patient violated a care plan, and the provider announces that the patient needs to seek care elsewhere. Regardless of the reason, patients in the outside world can often find new providers. In correctional medicine, patients are not free to seek care elsewhere.
Patients and providers will continue to disagree. In correctional medicine settings, both parties need to find a way to move past it. Providers will need to maintain boundaries while providing medically necessary care. These are difficult conversations with a variety of factors to consider. Yet these discussions will teach (and solidify) valuable de-escalation skills.
All the Patients Know Each Other, So You Practice Fairness
In traditional health care environments, patients do not know each other. There is no opportunity for patients to discuss their clinical experiences. In correctional medicine, all patients share the same providers. Given that, there is a much greater opportunity for patients to discuss their clinical experiences with each other. Any provider that is perceived as doing a favor for one patient will be asked to do the same for others. Correctional medicine providers need to ensure that they are treating all of their patients similarly.
Providers in correctional medicine have the chance to provide medical care to their patients without considering the person’s financial status (or their ability to pay.) The opportunity to provide fair care is unique to correctional medicine because providers in traditional health care environments consider the impact and the importance of insurance payments dramatically.
Your Patients Are Always Around, So You Can Witness Daily Life and Disease Progression
A fascinating part of medicine is watching a patient’s daily life, and how their disease progresses. Often, health care providers in traditional settings only get to see snapshots of the patient’s progression. So they mark the changes between today and the patient’s last appointment. Although providers can surmise about what the patient experienced between appointments—they don’t know for sure.
Correctional medicine providers do not have to surmise. Instead they get to witness aspects of their patients in daily life. A few providers note that the correctional medicine environment gives them much more exposure to witness disease progression than they did in traditional settings.
Working in correctional medicine has a unique set of challenges and learning opportunities. Correctional medicine may not be the right fit for everybody.
Correctional medicine. Wikipedia, 2 June 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correctional_medicine. Accessed February 7, 2017.
Giang, Vivian. Jailhouse Doctor Shares What It’s Like To Care For The Most Dangerous People In the World. Business Insider, 20 March 2013, http://www.businessinsider.com/what-its-like-to-be-a-doctor-in-prison-2013-3. Accessed January 31, 2017.
Keller, Jeffrey. Correctional Medicine is Different: Our Patients Don’t Go Home! JailMedicine.com, http://www.jailmedicine.com/correctional-medicine-is-different-our-patients-dont-go-home/#more-2985. Accessed February 7, 2017.
Keller, Jeffrey. Correctional Medicine: The Principles of Fairness. JailMedicine.com, http://www.jailmedicine.com/correctional-medicine-the-principle-of-fairness/. Accessed February 7, 2017.
Keller, Jeffrey. Correctional Medicine is Different: All Clinical Encounters are Discussed in the Dorm. JailMedicine.com, http://www.jailmedicine.com/correctional-medicine-is-different-all-clinical-encounters-are-discussed-in-the-dorm/. Accessed February 7, 2017.
Keller, Jeffrey. Correctional Medicine is Different: We Can’t Fire Our Patients-and They Can’t Fire Us! JailMedicine.com, http://www.jailmedicine.com/correctional-medicine-is-different-we-cant-fire-our-patients-and-they-cant-fire-us/. Accessed February 7, 2017.