If you’ve never been inside a prison, it’s a frightening world that most people would rather avoid. Television is full of images of tattooed inmates working out and looking menacing; it’s a fascinating and terrifying glimpse into a place that most of us will never see.
But state and federal prisons are tasked with taking care of inmates and that means providing them with healthcare when they become ill. Corrections nurses are a specialty field of care as they are tasked with caring for inmates when they get sick in prison. They serve a vital function that is crucial to the prison infrastructure in the U.S.
Prison? Scary. Becoming a correctional nurse? Rewarding.
Here’s everything candidate’s need to know about pursuing this career.
What to Know About Correctional Healthcare
An article in Nurse.org featured corrections nurse, Lorry Schoenly, PhD, RN, CCHP-RN, who shared her insights into working as a nurse in our nation’s intricate network of prison and jail systems. Her experiences in orthopedics and critical care prepared her for a role in corrections in some unexpected ways. For example, her patients in prison are just as appreciative of her help as the patients on the outside of the prison walls.
But Schoenly reports that she did have some misconceptions about working in corrections. For example:
- Our nation’s jails and prisons are sometimes safer than the normal hospital setting. Corrections officials are standing by to help should she need it, unlike a more relaxed traditional healthcare setting.
- Schoenly suggests she sees some unusual cases that don’t typically crop up in traditional healthcare settings. For example, she has seen tuberculosis and even leprosy, as well as botulism from drinking tainted homemade alcohol in prison. One of the most common ailments is related to oral hygiene.
- She also shares that the environment features an administrative team that is singularly focused on running the prison, unlike a hospital where leadership is all about healthcare. This requires keen negotiation, education and collaboration, as she seeks to further the healthcare needs of her inmate-patients. To advance patient therapies, she must sometimes work with leaders who have a different set of priorities than others in the healthcare field.
- Like all nursing career paths, self-care is one of the most important elements of working in the field. Working in corrections means the patient population has typically experienced a higher level of trauma. This can lead to added stress for the corrections nurse. Keeping a comfortable layer between personal and professional life, while carefully monitoring stress levels, will ensure the health of the corrections nurse.
- Finally, the last big surprise for any nurse entering the corrections field is the work is far more rewarding than you may ever anticipate. Beyond the gratitude of the patients, it is clear corrections nurses are providing a critical point of care for people that desperately need it.
Considering a career in correctional nursing? Check out the National Recruiters job board, or talk directly to a nursing talent manager to find out more about the roles available and how you can help.