Compassion and experience key to helping women prisoners
With experience in community nursing and midwifery in the UK and in coronary care and substance abuse nursing in Perth, Clinical Nurse Sharon Corcoran’s abilities and caring manner make her a valuable member of Bandyup Women’s Prison’s health centre team.
“Each of us has a speciality, such as asthma, blood borne viruses, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, incontinence and sexually transmissible infections,” Sharon said.
“But along with being able to handle most situations, a prison nurse needs to be a people person.
“Our patients may have committed crimes, but I don’t want to know about that and I don’t judge them. They are some of WA's most vulnerable women, many of them victims of child sex abuse and domestic violence.
“Many women prisoners are smokers, have a history of illicit drug use, have not finished high school and have a chronic health condition such as asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes or hepatitis C.
“Sometimes it’s almost as important for us to take the time to have a chat to them as to treat their medical condition. It’s vital they feel they can trust us because many of these women haven’t been able to trust people before. If they believe medical professionals are prepared to help them, hopefully they’ll be more likely to seek medical help if they need it when they’re released.”
Sharon said one of the health care team’s most important reponsibilites was educating their patients.
“We help them understand how to look after their health and provide information to help them better manage conditions such as diabetes, even teaching them how to do their own blood sugars. It’s very satisfying to see how their health improves in prison.”
The team has up to 15 patient appointments a day in the clinic, does the rounds of the units to provide medication and also sees walk-in patients who may have injuries such as a cut from working in the kitchen.
The team also deals with emergencies such as epileptic seizures and, rarely heart attacks, keeping the patient stable with basic life support until an ambulance arrives for their safe transportation to hospital.
“Every day is different and it has the extra benefits of working with a great team who you can have a laugh with, free parking and good food. It’s also safe, as we always have Prison Officers close by, and we have a good relationship with them. I’d recommend this job to anyone,” Sharon said.
If you would like to join Sharon as a nurse in one of the Department of Justice’s custodial facilities for young people or adults, visit the jobs.wa.gov.au website for advertised nursing positions in WA prisons and the detention centre. The website is updated daily. For more information about nursing in a custodial setting, email Director of Nursing Eithne Molloy.