What Is a Correctional Nurse?

Did you know that the number of individuals in our nation’s correctional facilities and prisons is staggering, and it continues to grow. Despite the reason that they are there in the first place, the millions of detainees still have medical needs, just like every other citizen, and these needs must be met in a timely and professional manner.

While there may be some additional safety risks as a correctional nurse, we find that most professionals find their work to be just as rewarding as someone who may work in a “normal” facility.

The role of a correctional nurse is a nursing professional that cares for and treats inmates and other detainees in correctional facilities and jails. These professionals make the choice to treat and care for the health needs of those who are detained. Their responsibilities range from performing both routine and emergency medical procedures. This work should also be commended as without them, those who are detained would need to be transported to a public facility for treatment.

Becoming a correctional nurse isn’t for everyone as they truly need to be objective and treat all individuals with respect, no matter the reason they have been detained in the first place. And, it’s important to be compassionate because no one knows what brought them to where they are now. They all have a story to tell, and come from very diverse backgrounds.

Correctional nurses must also be aware of and somewhat comfortable with the fact that they are working around criminals. As a correctional nurse, you must be comfortable with the fact that you could possibly be working in close proximity to some of the most dangerous people, including sexual predators and murderers.
That being said, it’s also important for their own security, that they must take certain precautions to ensure the safety of themselves and everyone around them, including the detainees.

What Do Correctional Nurses Do?

Unlike nurses in some other specialties, correctional nurses typically deal with a wide range of medical problems. They administer both routine and emergency medical care, and they treat acute and chronic illnesses, as well as injuries.

Correctional nurses are also responsible for the routine health care of inmates with certain pre-existing medical conditions. This might include illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and seizure disorders. While in custody, detainees can also develop acute or chronic illnesses, ranging from influenza to AIDS, and it is the correctional nurses’ job to care for them. If a detainee is required to take medications, correctional nurses are also required to administer these medications under strict supervision.

At times, prisons and correctional facilities can be very dangerous places, and injuries – unintentional or otherwise – are not at all uncommon. Correctional nurses must be prepared to handle injuries such as stabbings and broken bones. In some instances, such as when a correctional facility healthcare ward is unable to attend to an emergency, a correctional nurse might also be required to accompany patients to outside medical facilities for additional treatment.

Where Do Correctional Nurses Work? 

As a correctional nurse, you could be employed by both private and government-run detention centers, as well as temporary holding facilities. The actual workplace could vary from correctional facilities, prisons, and jails. You may even be assigned to juvenile detention centers and so-called boot camps.

How Do I Become a Correctional Nurse?

Before you start your career as a correctional nurse, you must first take the necessary steps to become a licensed nursing professional, such as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or a registered nurse (RN).

After you’ve become licensed, it is recommended that you gain experience in what is considered a normal, less risky environment. Working hands-on in an emergency care setting is also very helpful, but not always required. Having that additional real-life experience will make you better prepared to handle what may be thrown at you as a correctional nurse.

Once you’re hired as a correctional nurse, there will be even more training help you further understand the safety and security. To take it a step further, consider becoming a Certified Correctional Health Professional by passing the certification examination offered by the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare.

Learn more about opportunities that may help jumpstart your goals