Stress remains a major occupational hazard among nurses. As the United States maintains the largest correctional system in the world, little is understood regarding the occupational stress of correctional nurses and how that stress impacts their overall health and well-being.
What are the occupational/environmental stressors and professional burnout factors experienced by correctional nurses?
Guided by Whittemore and Knafl's methodology, an integrative review was conducted using online databases of Scopus, CINAHL, NIOSH-tic, and PubMed in July of 2021 for peer-reviewed articles ever published internationally. Key concepts of “correctional health nursing” and “occupational stress” were used in our search.
One hundred fifty-two articles were identified. Eleven articles met eligibility criteria and were included in this review. Three key themes emerged: conflict, fear, and demands.
Conflict arose from ethical and relational issues among coworkers, management, and incarcerated patients. Fear stemmed from physical safety concerns and workplace violence, whereas demands involved high workloads paired with a lack of organizational support. Findings revealed evidence on the unique occupational environment of correctional nursing professionals that impacted levels of stress and burnout across all types of correctional settings (e.g., jails and prisons).
Better assessment and consistent evaluation of the health and well-being of correctional nurses and their correctional nursing environments are needed. Additional resources to reduce stress, along with ensuring policies that mitigate ethical challenges, workplace violence, and bullying, may promote professional and safe workspaces.