Where I work we seem to have a high turnover. A lot of nurses decide it just isn't their cup of tea. It does wear you down when you are constantly dealing with people who are confrontational with you. And the lies and drama you have to deal with. I can't tell you how many inmates get sent out to the ER for chest pain and other textbook MI symptoms. After getting the "million dollar" workup, none of them had anything wrong with them. Not one.
Inmates tend to test the new nurses to see if they can get the nurse to give them things the more experienced correctional nurse would not...whether it is meds, a bottom bunk restriction or a note to get out of work. We always try to warn the new nurses to expect this but even with fair warning it still can be overwhelming. After all, we are nurses and our default mode tends to be accommodating to our patients. Only, in the hospital it doesn't really matter if you give your patient an extra drink or dessert with their dinner (assuming no dietary restrictions) but in prison you can find yourself in big trouble for giving something extra to an inmate.
My employer often hires new grads. This is not the best environment for new grads. Because you often cannot believe what an inmate is telling you, you have to have developed great assessment skills. While the inmates often lie, every once in a while you do come across one who really is sick and you have to be able to recognize sick...even in an inmate who has cried wolf numerous times in the past. Assessment skills can only come from experience. And you have to be confident in your skills because a lot of inmates will argue with you if you do not tell them what they want to hear or give them what they want. Also, unlike a hospital environment where there is often another nurse or two nearby, in a correctional setting the new grad nurse may be the only medical person responding to an emergent situation and not have another nurse nearby for a second opinion.
Most new grads don't stay long. Out of the numerous new grads we have hired, only one has stayed more than a couple of months. And she is, in my opinion, pretty useless as a nurse. She is lazy as can be and any time someone might need something more than a bandaid, she will find a way to pawn that inmate off onto the other nurse working...even if that other nurse is stationed in a building nearly half a mile away. You can't build up your skills if you never do anything.
She is also extremely disrespectful to the inmates. She talks down to them all of the time. Not only does she talk down to the inmates, she also talks down to the correctional officers. I am not "friends" with any staff or inmates, but I do treat them all professionally and respectfully. You never know when you may find yourself needing help out of a sticky or even dangerous situation. While I have never found myself in such a situation, I have heard of inmates coming to the rescue of an officer in trouble. If you have been disrespectful everyone around you, they may not respond as quickly as they could have.
Don't get me wrong. There are plenty of nurses who stay. Many of our nurses have been there for 15-20 years. Me, I have been there for 5 years but am looking to move on. I want to pursue my master's degree and I don't really see room for meaningful advancement in line with the area I want to study. Plus, my company's tuition reimbursement sucks. I interviewed for a hospital job that has a fantastic program for RN's who are going for their masters degree.