Interested in Correctional Nursing

  1. Hello. I am hearing a great deal lately about the challenging yet rewarding career as a nurse in a correctional facility. I have been in the health care profession for 11 years orking as a Respiratory Therapist for 6 years and as an RN for the past five years in Critical care. i am looking for a different area of nursing to put my talents to use. I live in Bronx, New York.

    I would appreciate help and advice in how to go about seeking a job in correctional nursing.
  2. Visit vyrrn profile page

    About vyrrn

    Joined: Mar '02; Posts: 1
    Critical Care Nurse


  3. by   DougD1
    Did this for 3 and a half years in a state facility. I recommend that you do some research in your state. You will likely find that there are several types of facilities in which you can work:
    1. Local jails often utilize nurses to pass meds and triage and treat. Look through your city or county local web sites, as well as the local phone book.
    2. State facilities- Next most common type of facility- There are generally prisons, prison hospitals, or prerelease centers, and they can be accessed by searching the state web page. In Ohio there are over 30 such facilities.
    3. Federal prisons- These are generally less frequently found although quite a few states have at least one, again do a web search to assist here.
    My thoughts to you:
    1. This is a completely different world, with a complete different sett of rules within the walls of the facility. Your first priority will be safety and security. This can have an impact on what you do, and how you do it. One time I did CPR by myself for almost fifteen minutes, not due to the lack of response by the
    Paramedics, but because rules required that the vehicle be thoroughly searched prior to entering the facility. The rules do make sense when you look at what has happened historically in facilities. your critical care skills would serve you well in being adaptable.
    2. You must be able to have an "Us versus them" mentality. While you can be cordial with the inmates they can never be your friends, this will get you into deep doo doo. This is referred to as a "Nexus." One of the nurses I worked with gave one of the inmates her home phone number, she was gone shortly thereafter.
    3. It can be a rewarding career, and many of the jobs are unionized which has some good advantages for you as a nurse.
    There is always a flip side to this though, and that is a whole other story.
    Good luck, hope this helps!
  4. by   TerriRene
    To discover the locations of federal prisons within your area you can find them at the following website:
  5. by   renerian
    YIKES on the phone number...............................I would not even want my last name on my badge......

  6. by   DeanG55
    You must be able to adjust to the jail environment. It is a locked facility with potential for danger. If you have psychiatric experience, this really is useful due to the secure facility. You must be able to overlook the crime or alleged crime committed by inmates. It was difficult for me at first to adapt to the security measures in place. For instance, the security of the jail is of utmost importance and has to be considered before any evaluation of its inmates. This is especially important when injury occurs on the cell blocks. You want to immediately treat any injury, etc. but must wait until security of the jail is assured.
    You must be able to handle manipulative behaviors and be aware of when inmates are trying to manipulate you. They are incarcerated and will sometimes attempt to leave the jail, as in an ER visit if your facility has no facilities to handle them.
    I have been working with juvenile offenders, which are very challenging. I've seen numerous attempts to leave the jail and some have even resorted to personal harm in trying to leave the jail for the ER. It is especially important to gather medical data from the inmate to assure proper and accurate medical care.
    I hope this has helped you with a decision about correctional nursing. Go to for state and local jobs in jails or go to for federal jobs.
    Last edit by DeanG55 on Oct 8, '02
  7. by   sjoe
    You might find a post by jailrn, do a search of all her posts and read them. Most of what you would need to know is covered therein sooner or later.

    And of course, reading the other threads in this forum will give you an excellent idea of what it is like.

    I did correctional nursing for 4 years, and found it a much more controllable (by you) environment than hospital nursing.

    You just have to remember that 1) the correctional officers are your friends and WILL save your butt, and 2) NONE of the inmates are to be trusted EVER.

    Besides the advice already offered, call the public health departments (or whoever supplies healthcare for inmates in your local jail), jails, prisons, etc. around you and see if there is someone in nursing you can talk to, some facilities you can visit. (They will usually let you and show you around.)

    It is kind of weird at first, being locked up every day while you are working, not trusting your patients, etc. but it didn't take me long to get used to.

    The private companies that run prisons usually don't pay well, many states and feds do, some cities and counties do. I worked at the San Francisco City and County jail, where we made $35/hour per diem. Some people working lots of overtime were hauling in over $100K, so don't settle for paltry wages.

    It is definitely a growth industry and well worth looking into.
    Last edit by sjoe on Oct 9, '02

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