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Document Type

Dissertation - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Graduate Nursing

First Advisor

Thomas Stenvig


Nurses employed in healthcare facilities outside of correctional environments may encounter caring for inmate-patients. The purpose of this study was to construct an emerging grounded theory that explained nurses’ decision-making and caring processes with inmate-patients outside of the correctional environment. There were ten participants in this study, all of whom were registered nurses who had cared for an inmate-patient in the hospital setting outside of a correctional environment within the last two years. Using semi-structured interviews, which were audiotaped and transcribed verbatim, data was collected and analyzed using a constructivist approach, as described by Charmaz (2006). The core process of engaging with incarcerated individuals emerged. Engaging with incarcerated individuals manifested in three care trajectories: living the profession, carrying out duty, or losing nursing identity. Inherent to engaging with incarcerated individuals were the decision-making sub-processes of defining the care recipient, defining the role of the nurse, and defining the role of punishment. Engaging with incarcerated individuals was influenced by playing by a new set of rules; characterized by maintaining vigilance, adjusting to the influence of the guard, and working with restraints. Engaging with incarcerated individuals was also influenced by resolving dissonance; which was comprised of balancing biases and beliefs, gaining experience and education, and accounting for peer influences. The findings of this study bridge what is known about correctional nursing practice into the acute care setting outside of the correctional environment, and inform nursing education, practice, and research related to nursing care of the incarcerated population

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Prisoners -- Medical care Nurse and patient


Includes bibliographical references (pages 188-202)



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


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