Correctional nursing can involve significant ethical difficulties. This study examined ethical challenges encountered by correctional nurses in the Italian region of Liguria. Empirical data were analyzed in relation to relevant ethical standards. The former involved a study of 75 nurses and managers in the Ligurian correctional system, while the latter involved an analysis of the Italian Code of Ethics for Nurses and related standards for correctional practice.
Quantitative and qualitative methods were used for the empirical study. Questionnaires were administered to collect data on participants’ characteristics and care settings. The Measure of Job Satisfaction (MJS) was also administered. Five focus groups were conducted.
Quantitative Data: Respondents identified factors that mostly impacted on recruitment and retention. Unfavourable factors included: structural, organizational, and relational factors. Favourable factors included: nursing consultation, continuing education activities, and peer support. MJS results were equal to ‘unsatisfied’.
Qualitative Data: Five themes were identified through thematic analysis of focus group data: Health needs of incarcerated persons; Negotiation of the boundaries between care and custody; Job satisfaction related to nursing in a correctional setting; Barriers to providing good care; and Security needs. Ten categories of norms were identified in the Code as areas of ethical standards relevant for the empirical data.
Our empirical findings demonstrate that these nursing standards can be systematically compromised in correctional settings. Nurses feel compelled to provide ethically-problematic nursing services, with situations of moral distress. This research informs the development of needed policy, educational, and practice changes for nurses in correctional settings.
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