Nurses work in all types of environments. Whether it is an ER, university, military, consulting firm, or even a prison, the role of the nurse goes far beyond the typical hospital setting.

July’s Nurse On the Move, Lorry Schoenly PhD, RN, CCHP-RN, is a correctional healthcare risk consultant for jail and prison clients. She also currently serves as part of the faculty at the Chamberlain College of Nursing and writes a monthly column on correctional healthcare issues, along with podcasts.

Schoenly previously served as the director of education of the National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses and assistant vice president of Rancocas Hospital, among other titles. She started her career as a staff nurse. She received her bachelor’s of nursing from Excelsior College and earned both her master’s in burns, emergency, and trauma, and doctorate in nursing from Widener University.

Through our interview, I learned why Schoenly went into correctional nursing and what daily reminder she has for nurses.

Q: Why did you decide to become a nurse?
A:  I never imagined being a nurse while growing up. I come from a family of educators. While in critical care after the difficult delivery of our son, I looked around at the nurses scurrying about and thought, "These folks are doing meaningful work.” I was hooked.

Q: You started as a staff nurse and remained in that role for a little over three years. What motivated you to continue your education and become a staff instructor and, eventually, a director of education?
A:  I guess I have always been an educator at heart. As a staff nurse…I was like a sponge soaking up information from any inservice or continuing education course I could find. I was thrilled to apply and be accepted [to a staff development position]…where I was able to continue in patient care, while managing the orientation of new staff and creating inservices for new treatment and equipment. For me, it was an ideal combination.

Q: As a nurse educator, what advice do you have to inspire others to further their education?
A:  You can almost never go wrong with education. One of the joys of nursing is the wide array of opportunities. If you are unhappy in your current position, research other options and determine what is needed for an entry-level position. Enjoy the journey and seek to apply everything you learn in the classroom into your current work experiences.

Q: How did you become interested in correctional nursing?
A:  Like many in our specialty, I am an accidental correctional nurse. I don't know anyone who announced as a child that they wanted to be a jail nurse when they grew up. In fact, it had never occurred to me that nurses worked in jails and prisons until I answered an advertisement for a nurse educator position in the NJ prison system. However, once I saw the great need for nursing care and nursing caring behind bars, I saw an opportunity to bring my skills and abilities to bear both locally and nationally. Correctional nurses care for a vulnerable, marginalized, and very needy patient population. And, it takes grit and determination to work in that environment day after day. I see firsthand the struggles correctional nurses have in the low resourced and ethically challenging criminal justice system. I do what I can to support their efforts.

Q: As a correctional healthcare consultant, what is your biggest challenge related to patient care?
A: The greatest challenge I face when helping improve patient care is organizational culture. Pervasive attitudes among team members are hard to eradicate. We want quick fixes, whether it be losing weight, getting dinner on the table, or improving a relationship. It is the same in healthcare. Leaders want to write a policy, inservice staff, and then move on to the next thing on the list. It doesn't work like that in organizations, even though we wish it would!

Q: If you could give nurses a daily reminder, what would it be?
A: The encouragement I use at the end of each of my Correctional Nursing Today podcasts is to "Make today count for good.”  As nurses, we always have an opportunity to make a difference in someone's life, and I try to remind myself of that regularly. A quotation on the whiteboard of my office that encourages me is from Goethe, "Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do,” As an educator, I try to continually encourage others to apply what they are learning, otherwise it is for naught.

Q: What do you see for the future of nursing?
A:  The future of nursing is bright as we move forward. There are many opportunities for nurses to make a difference, no matter the position or location. Correctional nursing, in particular, is advancing as a specialty, and I am delighted to be a part of it!