Correctional nurses work in an intense and fast-paced environment. You must have the ability to exude grace under pressure and be willing to work with a rough crowd. It can be easy for prisoners to feel abandoned and unworthy of basic human compassion and care. This is where correctional nurses help make a difference.
In this article we will explore:
- What does a correctional nurse do?
- How do I become a correctional nurse?
- Do correctional nurses need specific certifications?
- Where do correctional nurses work?
- What are the job and salary outlooks for correctional nurses?
What does a correctional nurse do?
Correctional nurses have several responsibilities. Conducting the initial prisoner assessment is their most important job function. They are tasked with evaluating the prisoner’s health before they are assigned to the general population. Prisoners who have communicable diseases or other high-risk health conditions may receive recommendations for placement or ongoing care.
Some of the other job responsibilities for correctional nurses include:
- Evaluating illness and injury. If a prisoner becomes ill or is injured while incarcerated, the correctional nurse is the first line of defense. It is the correctional nurse’s job to decide if the prisoner’s condition is treatable in the infirmary, or if a transfer to a hospital or other healthcare facility is in order.
- Maintaining accurate patient records. Correctional nurses must keep meticulous patient records, and regularly communicate patient needs to the prison physician or nurse practitioner who serves in a supervisory role.
- Managing chronic conditions. Some prisoners have chronic illnesses and injuries that require close monitoring and medical interventions. For instance, if a prisoner has Type 2 Diabetes, a correctional nurse may help administer insulin and ensure the condition is under control. Prisoners are not permitted to control their medications, so correctional nurses handle the tracking and inventory of all controlled substances.
- Treating medical emergencies. Prisons are tough environments. Some disruptions cause traumatic injuries. Correctional nurses must respond quickly in these situations to administer emergency care.
How do I become a correctional nurse?
Correctional nurses must hold an RN, LPN, or APN licensure. Each state differs in its education, training, and testing requirements. Some prisons prefer nursing professionals with a BSN due to the level of care and unique working conditions of prisons.
Do correctional nurses need special certifications?
Special certifications are not required to work in this sector of nursing but are recommended. The National Commission on Correctional Healthcare (NCCHC) offers a Certified Correctional Health Professional designation for RNs. To meet eligibility for the certification, nurses must:
- Hold a current and active RN license within the U.S. that is not restricted to correctional setting practice.
- Possess the equivalent of 2 years of full-time practice as an RN.
- Accumulate 2,000 hours of practice in a correctional setting within the most recent 3 years.
- Finish 54 hours of continuing education in nursing within 3 years. 18 CEUs must be specific to correctional healthcare.
Where do correctional nurses work?
Most correctional nurses work in jails and penitentiaries. They also can work in juvenile facilities and secure group homes for young offenders. Halfway houses, community jails, and private prisons also need correctional nurses on staff. Depending on what type of facility they choose, correctional nurses can work for the state or federal government or a third-party contractor providing correctional services (private prisons).
What are the job and salary outlooks for correctional nurses?
Correctional nurses, like other nursing professionals, are in high demand. Prison populations continue to grow in the U.S. due to changes in policies and procedures. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts growth for correctional nurses at 7% between now and 2029, which is faster than the rate of increase for other professions during the same period.
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Salaries for correctional nurses are on par with what RNs make in other care settings. The average median pay is $75,330 annually or $36.22 per hour.
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