Correctional Nursing Pros/Con and Environment

  1. 0
    So I'm a recent graduate and have a RN job possibility in a state correctional facility. I was just looking for advice from others on experiences of working with this given population. We went on a tour during my last semester of nursing school with a head nurse at a facility and it seemed interesting as well as more sketchy than your typical RN job. So I definitely am interested in working in this area and as a new grad, can't be too selective it seems at this point. Just have a few mixed feelings about working in this given environment and looking for any info, advice, past experiences!
  2. 23 Comments so far...

  3. 1
    Only take the job if you have no other choice. I was only offered two jobs, prison and nursing home. I took the prison job but wondering all the time if I made the wrong choice.
    TriciaJ likes this.
  4. 3
    I was a prison nurse for five years and loved it!!!
    Sosweet617, Two Sheds, and DesertRN2 like this.
  5. 9
    Actually there is a wide variety of clinical conditions see in the prison system. I do not think it is a good location for a new grad though. I started my nursing career in critical care so I am not one of "those" nurses. (the kind that you have to have 1-3 years of med surg before you can specialize). There are often very different skill mixes in correctional nursing. Typically there are times when there are not much back-up so each nurse needs to be able to function independently.
    SinMiedo, mckirob, TriciaJ, and 6 others like this.
  6. 21
    I can tell you my opinion from the LVN point of view -

    Pros -
    - a lot of skills that you do not get to use in a nursing home (at least at the homes in my area) you get to use here (EKG, IV starts, triage situations)
    - There is a wide variety of nursing areas crammed into one area - Psych, med-surg, ER, substance abuse, etc.
    - Absolutely NEVER a dull moment.
    - You really have to use your knowledge on disease process because inmates will lie through their teeth to get what they want.
    - You do not have to worry about families

    Cons -
    - There are a lot of skills that I learned in school that I do not use where I work - Foleys, Trach suctioning
    - There are a lot of skills that we didn't touch on much in school that would be VERY helpful to know
    - You work with a less than desirable patient population, but as nurses I believe we are taught to keep our judgements at home and do what we were trained to do and that is provide care.

    On a different note - I absolutely love where I work, and I believe I am getting the best experience for an LVN who looks to transition to RN to become either a ER nurse or possible Psych nurse. There are times where I have to get "tough" on the inmates, but that is actually very rare, most of them are usually respectful towards me. One piece of advice I would like to give you is if you cannot keep your judgements at the door (you do treat child molesters, murders, etc.) I do not think it would be a place for you. I see some people I work with that carry these with them at work and I believe it causes them to treat the inmates as less than humans. I do understand that these people have done less than desirable things, but they are still humans that need treatment for whatever it may be. I also see that it makes their day a little more stressful than what it needs to be. I try to not think about those things and go on with my day. My nursing professor told me to think about this - the inmates in jail are the ones who have gotten caught for their crimes, there are very many out there that we treat in the hospital who could have done the same thing or even worse and we have no idea about it.
    upnosalt, SinMiedo, MusicNurseCarrlee, and 18 others like this.
  7. 0
    Thanks for the information, CChezum. Definitely good information there. Was wondering the same thing. Just applied here in California to work as a CNA within the prison systems in NorCal. Had planned on working as CNA within prisons while I went after my LVN and then transition to working as a LVN and then go after my RN/BSN. :-)
  8. 2
    (you do treat child molesters, murders, etc.) I do not think it would be a place for you. I see some people I work with that carry these with them at work and I believe it causes them to treat the inmates as less than humans. I do understand that these people have done less than desirable things, but they are still humans that need treatment for whatever it may be. I also see that it makes their day a little more stressful than what it needs to be. I try to not think about those things and go on with my day. My nursing professor told me to think about this - the inmates in jail are the ones who have gotten caught for their crimes, there are very many out there that we treat in the hospital who could have done the same thing or even worse and we have no idea about it.

    Being 45 years old and are going back to school (from the beginning, meaning general course). My dream is to become a RN Nurse someday and it will happen! cchemzem15, I think this is the best advice a nurse can ask for.
    Oldest&Ugliest and avhiecasis like this.
  9. 1
    Worked corrections for 8 yrs. loved it. Plan to return once I finish my BSN.
    MusicNurseCarrlee likes this.
  10. 12
    I recently quit my job in county jail. I did love it and wouldn't mind returning again some day. One of the things that bothered me though was listening to negative, judgemental talk about our patients (inmates). We had a lot of autonomy and many of my colleagues would always make the harshest choices they could make when it came to treatment options. Trying to implement high standards of care can be a struggle as you are swimming against the tide in that environment. Our Health Services Administrator was a young woman who has proven to be a genious in those hazardous waters. She has made very meaningful change and the changes have actually saved lives on more than one occasion.

    Always remember, these are the exact same patients you would see in the ER, hospital room or doctor's office. They, like patients in every other healthcare settings, are sons and daughters, sisters, brothers, fathers, mothers, uncles and aunts. People love them, they want to love and be loved. They are humans in trouble, deserving of healthcare to the best of your ability and resources. You still need to advocate for them and will be called to "go to the matt" for them, perhaps more than other healthcare environments.
    theeemmakate34, upnosalt, SinMiedo, and 9 others like this.
  11. 16
    I agree with sunshines66. Prison nursing is a good job, just not a good first job. It requires a degree of independence that a new greduate cannot possibly have, especially on night shift where a lot of openings occur. My agency does not hire new grads. Our entry level RN positions require a year of nursing experience.

    Since you asked for pros and cons:

    Pros: Independence. Don't have to treat inmates like customers and take abuse off of them, like you sometimes do with hopsital patients. Inmates are generally grateful for what you do for them. No doctors rounding after hours. No visitors in the infirmary. A lot of variety in what you see. Not unlike being in a small town clinic in a lot of respects.

    Cons: About 800 of them here (but I digress). When we have our moments, they are usually big ones (stabbings, shootings, riots, etc.). Some nurses have trouble adjusting to the differences between this environment and what they are taught in school. Comforting touches and terms of endearment may work with hospital patients. Here, they may be misinterpreted as romantic interest, and may be the first step down the road to compromise. Not everyone can deal with working in a locked environment.

    Someone else mentioned treating certain offenders differently because of their crimes. For that very reason, I make no effort to find out what anyone is doing time for. Some you can't avoid (high profile case with a lot of media coverage, etc.), but I had rather not know.


Top