Mar. 25, 2017

Medication Pass

We had a situation once where an inmate required his blood pressure medication before any of the nursing staff arrived at the facility. Since he worked on the gang (yes, the chain gang) and left the facility before we came into work I had to make arrangements for him. 

As the head nurse, it was part of my responsibility to make sure it was available to him prior to our normal hours so I would put the blood pressure pill in a little envelope and give it to the officers to give to him in the morning. In turn, they would log in the medication and document that it was in the tower for the inmate to take at 6 am.

Several days into this, I would come in at 8am, check the tower, note the log in and documentation and then see that the inmate did not take his pill. When I asked why, the officers always answered, “We forgot.”

For the next couple of days, I would take a red marker and write very largely, the inmate’s name and “6 AM - CANNOT LEAVE WITHOUT PILL!”

I would come in and the pill would still be sitting there. Again, “We forgot.”

“How can you forget,” I would demand. “It’s in big red letters. I don’t understand how you can miss it!”

I went to the sergeant, explained the problem and was assured they would follow through and make sure the inmate took his blood pressure pill before he left in the mornings. I even went to the inmate and told him if he did not make sure he took it before he left in the morning, I would not allow him to continue working on the gang.

“You can’t do that,” he yelled.

Looking at him dead on I said, “Watch me.”

All inmates have to be medically cleared to work on the gang in order to reduce their sentences so my being the head nurse put me in a position that I could take that privilege away from him. He complained to the sergeant.

She came to me and said, “The officers forgot again, that’s all.”

To which I replied, “How intelligent does one have to be in order to read the words on that envelop? They all know they need to give him the pill. They do not need a PhD in rocket science to understand he needs it before he leaves.” Needless to say, I was livid.

She went to the chief who runs the gang and said, “I think the nurse just called us stupid.”

In turn, the chief came to me and said, “Did you call my officers stupid?”

I laughed a little and answered, “I did not say they were stupid. They did that on their own. What I did say was it didn’t take a rocket scientist to read the envelope and make sure the inmate took his blood pressure pill before leaving the facility.”

“Well, they just keep forgetting, that’s all,” he answered.

“Fine,” I said, “If I come in tomorrow and he didn’t take his pill, he won’t go back out on the gang anymore.”

Stammering a bit, the chief said, “You can’t do that! I am trying to get these people out of the jail, not keep them here!”

As I turned to go back to my office I said, “Make sure he takes the blood pressure pill then.”

I have to give credit where it’s due. After two weeks of fighting over this, they finally started giving the inmate his pill before leaving. At least, for about a week and then we fell back into the same routine of, “forgetting.”

I came into work and noted the log in and the documentation. The pill was still taped to the tower window and the big red blaring words stared back at me mockingly as if to inform me he had not taken the pill. I was tired of pussyfooting around.

I called the chief and ordered the inmate to be brought back to the facility.

“When he comes in for lunch, I’ll bring him around to your office for his medication,” the chief countered.

“No,” I responded in even tones, “I want him brought back to me right now. I don’t care if he’s picking up trash off the highway in the next state I want him brought back to me now. He will no longer be working on the gang.”

The chief, not liking the fact he was being overruled by the nurse (I cannot blame him for that), went to the jail administrator (the warden). It just so happened, the sheriff (he’s the one who is actually in charge and runs the jail) was sitting with the administrator. I was called into a private meeting with the two of them.

“Michelle, what is going on” the administrator asked. “We’re trying to get these guys out. Why can’t he just take his pill when he comes in today and we’ll get him back on track in the morning?”

“Well, Mike, I’ll tell you why,” I answered taking a seat next to the sheriff. “This guy hasn’t been on his blood pressure medicine regularly since I don’t know when – it certainly hasn’t been regular since he’s been here as your officers keep forgetting to give it to him. Their words, not mine.

“Now, what is going to happen to this jail, or how would it affect the sheriff in his political campaigning (it was election year) if an inmate in his jail suddenly fell over from having a stroke while working outside in this heat, or at best, had a heart attack because your officers failed to give him a pill before he went outside? I’m sorry, Mike, but in the best interest of the jail and as well as the best interest of the sheriff, this man can no longer work outside and needs to be monitored.”

The sheriff stood up to go and said, “Mike, bring the inmate back and if he doesn’t take his medicine before going out again, fire the officer responsible for making sure he takes it.”

I’m happy to report: The inmate had his blood pressure pill every morning thereafter.