Being afraid you might die at work is an excellent reason to quit

Story of a prison nurse

Sara Burdick


Photo by Damir Spanic on Unsplash

I was the new kid on the block, the most recent and youngest nurse. I just turned 24 and walked into one of the most dangerous jobs you can have as a nurse.

Prison nursing is not something for the faint of heart; most nurses are men or older nurses who do not want to work in the hospital and lift patients.

The inmates are walky-talky, which means they are not bedbound and can tell you what they need. We all love a walky-talky unless you are in the ICU, and then we want a vented, sedated, and restrained patient.

I am sure you can imagine working with inmates can be dangerous, except I thought I would stay in the hospital and pass medications from a window.

That was one of the nurse’s jobs; however, that was not my job.

Once I got orientation and the general flow, I was assigned my unit. It would be the same every shift. I worked 3 pm–11 pm; I got an extra $50 just for showing up for work.

I used to work 8 hours in a restaurant to make $50 in tips; I was in heaven 50 bucks just for showing up, on top of my hourly wage!

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

My assignment was to give medications to inmates in their cells. So I took my patient list medication cart and got to work; how hard could this be?

I got assigned to the DDU; these inmates were the worst in prison. They were locked in their cells for 23 hours a day and had 1 hour to shower and go outside if they chose.

For the inmates, this was a safe space. If they couldn’t make it in the general population, they would cause a fight with another inmate and get thrown in the DDU.

The walkway was big enough to fit a guard next to me, my medication cart, and me. I pushed it close to the wall so the inmates couldn’t reach it, and I walked next to the wall so no one could reach out and grab me, but do not ever touch the wall; inmates like to throw their feces on the wall.



Sara Burdick

I quit the rat race after working as a nurse for 16 years. Travel and Storyteller. I live in Colombia.