interested in this specialty, any tips?


I am a new grad who just started on a med-surg floor in a California hospital. I plan on working one or maybe two years here, but it is in a very expensive place to live, and I want to move somewhere a little more affordable.

My mother in law is a CO w/ almost 30 years with the state (much of it as a psych tech at the old Camarillo State Hospital). She thinks I can get a job at her facility with her reference and has been trying to influence me to apply. I guess it is a pretty desirable prison to work, according to her. She works at California Men's Colony, in San Luis Obispo. I think it is minimum-security, and probably not all that big. Reading the posts on this board let me see how it is competitive to get into, so maybe I should jump on the opportunity.

I have unfounded, negative ideas about prison nursing in my head. I just want to know, what is a typical day like for a prison nurse? I would love to hear your experiences, please.

diane227, LPN, RN

1,941 Posts

Specializes in Management, Emergency, Psych, Med Surg. Has 32 years experience.

I filled in at a woman's prison in Idaho for the psych nurse who was on leave. My contact consisted of the inmates with psychiatric problems. There were 300 inmates in this prison and at least 125 of them were my patients. I found the work to be extremely interesting and rewarding. The women really responded to kindness which was something that most of them have never had in their lives. There was manipulation however and you have to be careful that you do not get too involved with them on a personal lever. You have to make sure that you keep your boundaries. Some of the women there were very nice and were the kind of people that you might want to know on the outside but that is a dangerous area to get into. Some of the inmates were required to have a psych assessment only once a month. I had a few schizophrenics that were stable that I saw and there was one woman on death row that I was required to eval monthly.

In the past I did volunteer work at a high risk male prison in Texas. The inmates there were in for violent crimes and they were there for a long time. Plus we had the death row inmates there. Some of the men were MASTERS of manipulation. We were from a church group that came in occasionally to give the inmates parties and recreational activities. There would be 20 of us in a large gym with a couple of hundred inmates. It was scary but for the most part they treated all of us with respect.

The biggest thing that you have to have in prison is street smarts and you have to be educated on sociopaths and their:rolleyes::rolleyes: behavior. You have to understand borderline personality because it runs rampant in the prison system. You might want to get a few years under your belt before you do prison. It is totally different from the outside world and the prisoners focus on the new nurses. They can really target you to see what they can get from you. Good Luck, Diane


20 Posts

Specializes in med-surg, tele, psych, float,preop/pacu.

I used to work part time at Vernon State Hospital, a maximum security psych hosp for those who needed to be evaluated for competency and incompetency to stand trial. The time you put in with the state can transfer to other state hosp or veterans hosp if you decide to move later on (for seniority purposes). Nurses who work there are considered forensic psych nurses; as an RN you would be overseeing LVNs who do most of the direct pt care. This hosp is in Texas; the cost of living in Vernon is much lower; it is an hour away from Wichita Falls, TX and 3 hrs drive to Dallas-Fort Worth. Tx has no state tax. You can check out their website for more info.

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