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Prison Nursing Career: People Behind Bars Need Nurses Too

by Greg Cryns

            When you begin looking into nursing careers, working in a prison might not be your first choice – or even something you’ve ever considered.  However, a career in correctional nursing can be very rewarding. This career avenue is often very lucrative.  Nurses working in a prison setting are likely to be paid more 

due to the nature of the job.  Correctional facilities know that to attract quality health professionals, they have to be competitive with salaries.

            While working in a prison setting might first seem like a boring detail, it can actually be pretty exciting for one who enjoys working with specific diseases.  In the prison population there are some health problems that crop up more often than they do in the general population.

            For example, HIV/AIDS is very prevalent in the prison population due to high-risk behaviors such as drug use and alcohol abuse.  In addition, you may see more cases of rare illnesses because of the inmates’ previous lack of medical care.

            Prisons are required to provide quality access to medical care to inmates, so you won’t be working in a substandard environment.  In fact, many prison facilities are similar to working in a mainstream medical practice.

            Nurses have responsibilities such as administering medications, taking blood, and helping to treat minor injuries.  In addition, nurses working in correctional facilities also work with psychiatric issues and medical emergencies.  Working in a prison setting will give you a broad spectrum of experience that you can take with you wherever you go later.  But many nurses find that they enjoy the prison setting so much that it becomes their career path.

            The biggest concern that most people have about working in a prison facility is quite naturally safety.  Most nurses who work in this arena explain that inmates are usually accompanied by guards for protection.  However, you may have to deal with inmates who are belligerent or threatening.

            While these concerns are valid, most of the time working in a prison is safe.  You’ll have to decide if you feel like the risk is worth the reward.  In the best cases inmates are very grateful for medical care because they haven’t received very much of it before becoming incarcerated.

            If you’re interested in working in correctional health, you may want to get more information from the National Commission on Correctional Health Care.  This agency offers a specific certification for nurses working in correctional facilities.  This certification will help to ensure that you’ve had training on safety, legal matters, and health care issues specific to the prison population.



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