There is a dire need for healthcare professionals to care for America's incarcerated patient population. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, according to the World Prison Brief. With approximately 2.1 million people behind bars.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of people who work as Registered Nurses, including Correctional Nurses, could rise by 9% from 2020 to 2030.
Correctional health care requires a compassion that sees beyond a person's criminal record and can provide quality care in a unique setting.
According to Indeed, some of the skills a Correctional Nurse should have are similar to a Nurse in any professional environment, with 1 additional skill:
- Critical thinking skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Attention to detail
- Interpersonal skills
- Communication skills
- Organizational skills
- Emergency response
- Knowledge of how to interact with inmates
As a Correctional Nurse, you provide a wide variety of care including intake and testing, treating preexisting conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, chronic illnesses ranging from influenza to AIDS, and emergency injuries such as broken bones and puncture wounds.
Some patients may need to be taken through detox due to substance abuse and others may have symptoms of mental illness. With such a range of health issues, it's important to have a broad set of skills and be able to act quickly.
Dodge Correctional Institution's Nursing Supervisor, Paula Stelsel said, "Working here, I’ve touched on everything from dialysis to post-op to hospice care. You’re getting a little bit of everything, and if you enjoy patient education, what a great place to come and work."
Many people have the notion that working in a correctional facility would be unsafe, however these facilities follow strict security protocols to ensure safety. In any hospital or healthcare setting, Nurses face safety risks.
“There’s a perception out there that prisons are like people seen on TV, dirty and dangerous. But that’s not the case. They’re really not that far from a regular clinic that everyone and anyone goes to. The clientele is just a bit different. A lot of inmates haven’t had care, so you can enact meaningful change just by providing your compassionate care as a Nurse. Their health literacy is pretty low, and a lot of them are very appreciative of the help that you give them, the compassion that you show them, the empathy. They’ve just never experienced those things." said, Registered Nurse Robert Frank.
According to PayScale, the average annual base salary for Correctional Nurses is $54,000 and total pay ranges from $38,000 to $78,000. Correctional Nurse salaries are determined by many factors such as experience, credentials, and location.
Overall, Correctional Nursing is an interesting healthcare option that provides a different, rewarding experience each day.
Check out the video below to see a day in the life of a Correctional Nurse.