Is Correctional Nursing Right For You?


One nursing position that many healthcare professionals forget to consider is the position of a correctional nurse. While we’re often inclined to shy away from the correctional system, correctional nursing jobs are often in high demand, especially as the prison system grows larger and larger. Maybe you need a change of pace and discovered a correctional nursing job posting online or in the paper. Or, perhaps this is something you’ve always wanted to try. Either way, there are a few questions to ask yourself before you embark on the journey of becoming a correctional nurse.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Is Correctional Nursing Too Much Power?

As a correctional nurse, you will become the gatekeeper of health and comfort for many prisoners. While many relish that ability to help those in need, some will abuse this power, which is not good. It’s important to set aside any judgment or bias when it comes to your patients. It doesn’t matter what they did or why they’re there, it only matters that you help them to the best of your ability.

Can You Withhold Judgment?

That brings us to the next question. While we can’t ask you to completely forget that you’re treating criminals, it’s important that you refrain from any bias from treating them. In some cases, you might be forced to help provide comfort to someone who has committed heinous crimes, and you need to be able to accept that. You must leave the judgment up to the judicial system and focus on your duties as a healthcare professional.

Can You Tolerate Foul Language and an Intense Setting?

One of the biggest reasons that nurses shy away from this career is simply because the setting can be too much to handle. Correctional facilities and their residents aren’t always the most refined, so it’s important that you’re able to handle foul language and intense situations. Others will try to bully or manipulate nurses with their words or actions, so it’s important to have thick skin if you think correctional nursing is right for you.

Can You Work With Outdated Technology?

It’s no surprise that correctional facilities are often behind the times when it comes to technology. If you’re expecting state-of-the-art healthcare programs and equipment then you may want to look elsewhere. Correctional nurses sometimes need to spin gold from straw in order to provide adequate patient care. These facilities are already underfunded in most cases; so correctional nursing can often go overlooked in many areas. Luckily, those nurses who are looking for a challenge and are willing to be flexible will have great success in this area.

Do You Want to Inflict Punishment?

Although it might sound crazy, some correctional nurses view themselves, as part of the correctional staff, and in some cases will try to enforce their authority in ways that could be detrimental to their patients. Correctional nursing shouldn’t be about controlling residents, it should be about helping them, and so if you feel like you won’t be able to provide adequate care for them, this might not be the right job for you.

Are You Able to Handle Medication Administration?

One reason that many healthcare professionals shy away from correctional nursing is because a good portion of your day will include administering medication to residents. While each institution is different, authors Knox and Burrow in their book Medication Management in the Correctional Setting state that up to 80% of inmates can have prescription drugs ordered for medical and mental health conditions. This means that most of your time will be spent sorting, preparing, and storing medication for your patients.

Author: Troy Diffenderfer

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