What is Correctional Nursing?

For nurses seeking an alternative to the hospital bedside, correctional nursing is an excellent specialty worth considering. Correctional, or prison, nursing is an RN profession focused on providing quality healthcare services to incarcerated patients in the criminal justice system. Correctional nurses treat a variety of acute and chronic medical conditions faced by inmates and detainees. Strict security procedures are essential because correctional nurses serve both petty and violent criminals locked behind bars. The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that America’s prison population has exceeded 1.5 million. Correctional nursing plays a pivotal role in keeping these inmates healthy, especially after fights and other emergencies. If you’re searching for the right RN specialty, the following is an overview of the tough, yet rewarding career of correctional nursing.

What Correctional Nurses Do

Correctional nurses are the first healthcare providers an inmate will visit when symptoms or injuries appear. RNs will conduct health screenings, record medical histories, and provide patient education. Correctional nurses will coordinate the inmate’s treatment with a physician or nurse practitioner. They may accompany prisoners to hospitals or urgent medical facilities when emergencies occur. Under close supervision, they’ll administer prescribed medications and IVs. From dressing stabbing wounds to monitoring high blood pressure, correctional nursing has varied duties. Infection control is a major part of correctional nursing to thwart disease spread in close quarters. Some correctional nurses may run the prison’s hospice and help determine whether terminally ill inmates should be released.

Where Correctional Nursing Jobs Are

The United States houses inmates in approximately 1,800 state and federal prisons. A fleet of correctional nurses is hired at each one to oversee healthcare treatment. Offenders locked up in the country’s over 3,200 local and county jails depend on RNs for nursing services. Correctional nursing jobs can also be found at government detention centers, juvenile justice centers, temporary holding facilities, military bases, and psychiatric prisons. Nurses can care for delinquent youth, mentally unfit offenders, white collar criminals in minimum security, or murderers in maximum security. Prisoners are accompanied by custody officers or guards, but correctional nursing is still dangerous. Correctional nurses work fluctuating shifts to provide round-the-clock inmate care.

How to Become a Correctional Nurse

There are several pathways you can take for correctional nursing jobs. Enrolling in an accredited diploma or certificate program could satisfy your state’s RN requirements. However, most prisons look for highly trained nurses with at least a two-year associate degree in nursing (ADN). A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) will provide the greatest depth of clinical practice (please see: Top 10 Best Online RN to BSN Programs). After earning your BSN, you must pass the NCLEX-RN exam for licensing. Gaining experience in emergency or critical care is suggested first. Then, you can apply for correctional nursing positions. Added on-the-job training may be required to learn corrections protocol. Becoming a Certified Correctional Healthcare Professional (CCHP-RN) can help advance your career. This will require 54 hours of continuing education in nursing.

Correctional facilities employ registered nurses to objectively and safely treat convicts needing medical attention for trauma or chronic illnesses. Correctional nurses are assertive health professionals who still hold compassion for patients who’ve committed minor to serious crimes. The National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) reports that correctional nursing offers an average yearly salary of $77,000. Specializing in correctional nursing will help you protect the Eighth Amendment rights of incarcerated individuals by providing them with attentive healthcare.