Five minutes with a prison nursing support worker
Published: 27 February 2012
Health care assistants do a whole range of duties in very diverse settings. Leanne Porter is a nursing support worker at a prison in Warwickshire. She explains what attracted her to the position and what she has learned since starting.
What does your role involve and when did you start?
I began working as a band 2 nursing support worker at HMP Onley in Warwickshire last June. My job involves helping with the morning, afternoon and evening drug rounds by putting away scripts and medications and administering methadone. I also run the reception for doctors and dentists and help process the intake of inmates with minor illnesses. I do the ordering alongside a nurse and am responsible for carrying out the hand hygiene audit.
What attracted you to the job?
I come from a family of prison officers and after spending four years working in operating theatres, I fancied a change. I did some research before applying and realised that working in a prison could be rewarding if not challenging. I miss not having as many clinical duties and no longer having one-to-one interaction with patients to do observations and dressings, but my responsibilities have increased. I have been supported to develop and will be doing a specialist meds course soon.
What are your biggest challenges?
The biggest challenge for me is the verbal abuse you get when prisoners are frustrated. I try to understand why they are upset and support them appropriately but it can be hard at times. I’ve also struggled to accept the need to fit round the prison regime and the impact that has on the quality of care you can provide.
What about rewards?
The biggest reward is building a professional relationship with a prisoner who is going through a hard time and watching them change, open up and become a different person. During the time I have been working at Onley, I have seen amazing changes in so many inmates due to support from the prison service and health care staff. Some people once deemed rude and aggressive have become friendly, approachable and willing to help themselves.
How does your role fit in with that of registered nurses?
Working with the nurses at the prison is great. It’s a real joint effort due to the environment. I assist them at medication time and when there is an emergency and they always make me feel that I’m part of the team.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m unsure at the moment. I love my job but I’m not sure I’m tough enough for it. I’m also concerned that if I toughen up too much, I won’t be the same person I was when I joined the NHS to make a difference. I’m keen to progress and want to become a band 3 three some point too.
Share your story
Leanne got in touch with the RCN because she wanted to share her experience of what it is like working in a prison environment. If you’ve got a story to tell and think others could benefit from reading it, get in touch with the editorial team to find out how you could appear in a future issue of the newsletter. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Join an RCN forum
If, like Leanne, you work in a prison, court or police setting, you might find it beneficial to join the RCN’s Nursing in Criminal Justice Services Forum. This is a network of nursing staff who work in similar settings or have like interests and who connect to provide support to one another and share best practice. As an RCN member, you can join up to three specialist nursing forums free of charge. Find out more.