These series of blogs will provide insight into providing nursing services to prisoners of war and working in a correctional facility

Iraq War 2003

Prior to providing nursing services to prisoners in a correctional facility my closest experience working with prisoners was during my deployment in 2003 in support of Iraq Freedom. At the time of deployment to a war zone, I had recently graduated from nursing school with a Bachelor of Science degree and had very little nursing experience under my belt. While deployed to Baghdad, I lived and worked with many medical personnel a private hospital in Iraq which was occupied by the U.S. Army and converted into a combat support hospital to treat wounded U.S. troops.

The setup of the hospital was confusing because, on one side of a long hallway were the Americans and our allies, in the other side were the indigenous population who fought with us, and then at the end of the hallway were the prisoners of war. When the prisoners of war were brought in, they were usually dirty, bloody, smelly, non-compliant, and in pain. The nurses were typically briefed on how they sustained their injuries. Several of the wounded prisoners received injuries from trying to detonate bombs and others had been shot. There were times when the prisoners were treated for minor injuries before being taken away for incarceration.

Sometimes when I cared for these prisoners, I would think about the bodies of soldiers in the morgue that I had to prepare to send home to their loved ones. I would also think of all the injured men down the hallway who carried bullets and/or shrapnel in their bodies. There were nights when helicopters would come in with men and women wracked with pain and suffering because they were injured in an ambush. I think if given the chance, many of these prisoners would have tried to kill me. Thoughts like these would go through my mind; rather than thoughts of being a nurse. These moments are when I allowed God to work through me so that I could provide care to the best of my ability. It was in those moments that I would remind myself that being a nurse meant promoting and maintaining the optimal level of care possible to heal an injured patient regardless of their choices or actions prior to arriving for care.

To help gain a better understanding of the situation, I started learning about the indigenous population. I fellowshipped with other providers and we would share feelings and coping skills in order to get through each day; some of which lasted up to 18 hours.

Do you have a story to share working with prisoners?

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