So the intake facility is just a place for new inmates just coming into the prison? How is the workload in a correctional nursing compare to like where I work in an acute hospital floor?
Correct about the intake facility. It is a place where inmates come into the state prison system from county jails and other correctional systems. We do the initial screenings and identify medical problems and current medications. An intake physical is performed by our physician within a week or less. The majority of the inmates at my facility are permanently assigned here. The intake unit is only a part of the facility.
As far as the pace, you will find it far less hectic than most hospital floors, at least the normal routine. When we have our moments they are usually big ones - stabbings, riots, shootings on the exercise yard (when somebody has to get stupid and then doesn't obey orders from the correctional staff to cease and desist). I now work in a women's facility, so we don't have nearly as many violent events. When I worked night shift at a men's prison on a few occasions I heard the shotguns going off (warning shots) as I came through the gate and I thought "This is going to be an interesting night."
Your assessment skills will be put to the test. Inmates will exaggerate and fake symptoms to try to get things out of you. Pain medications are the most popular. Even though they only get OTC stuff as a general rule, these are popular on the yard as inmates sell and trade the pills. Some just like the challenge of duping staff. You also have to be aware that we operate within a custodial environment, and security issues are top priority. One positive thing about that is that custody takes a lot of measures to ensure the safety of medical staff.
Many people have asked me if I am afraid to work in a prison environment. The truth is that I was a lot more likely to be assaulted in the hospitals I worked in than out on the yard. Treat inmates with respect and dignity and you will have no issues. The vast majority will be very respectful to you in return. If an inmate isn't, then tell the officer "Our business is done" and have him/her take the inmate away. You don't have to treat them like customers, enduring all kinds of verbal abuse like in a hospital.
You will see things that you won't see other places, and things that redefine the term "stupid" - like the inmate who was bitten by his pet sidewinder (yes, you read that right - he was keeping a poisonous snake as a pet - even had a leash for it).
I have been in correctional nursing for eight years. I would not willingly return to hospital nursing. It isn't for everyone, but for those of us who love it, correctional nursing is the best-kept secret in health care.