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correctional nursing, end of life, inmate caregivers, prison



  1. Loeb, Susan J. PhD, RN, FAAN


ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study was to examine the values, beliefs, and perceptions of end-of-life (EOL) care held by inmates caring for peers approaching the end of their lives. The study is part of a broader participatory action research project to infuse enhanced EOL care into state prisons. Face-to-face interviews using a semistructured discussion guide were conducted with 17 male prisoners who were providing care for peers with advanced chronic illness and approaching end of life. Qualitative data were analyzed using content and thematic analyses. Key themes were getting involved, living the role, and transforming self through caring for others. As well, contextual features at the organizational, peer, and personal levels were identified, which either facilitated or impeded inmate caregiving. Provision of enhanced EOL care by inmate peers shows promise for improving prison community relations and morale, reducing suffering, and demonstrating care and compassion within the harsh prison environment. This study provides clear evidence that providing compassionate care for dying peers may result in transformative experiences for inmate caregivers. Implications for correctional nursing practice include providing training for inmate caregivers, including them in team meetings, and implementing grief support programs. Also, upholding nursing's code of ethics and watching for predatory behavior are critical.