In an environment where healthcare is not the primary mission, patient advocacy can be challenging, but it is a critical role for correctional nurses. You’ll advocate on behalf of patients in need of resources, education, and interventions.
Correctional nurses examine patients in the correctional environment, evaluate their response to treatment, and monitor their progress.
Correctional nurses provide mental health and emotional support for their patients and sometimes their families, and when necessary, refer them to appropriate mental health resources.
Correctional nurses work in collaboration with healthcare providers, ancillary staff and non-medical correctional staff to promote patient health and wellness. Understanding of the correctional nursing role and the custody role is important to successful collaboration and ultimately, patient outcomes.
Patient education is one of the most important roles of correctional nurses. You will educate patients about their chronic diseases, self-care strategies, their treatment plan, and preventive health care. In addition to patient education, correctional nurses educate nonmedical and healthcare staff in emergency medical response, infection control and disease prevention.
Nursing leadership in correctional settings requires expertise in nursing practice and recognition of their position as the onsite healthcare authority. The correctional nurse leader shall be able to think strategically and have a view of the entire system. This person must be grounded in professional practice, be agile, persevere, and be willing to drive professional practice and safe care. This person must have the capacity for resilience.
Correctional nurses are an integral part of the multi-disciplinary team at the facility. In addition, there are opportunities to lead, guide, support and supervise healthcare staff, develop policies and procedures, and in general, ensure that the healthcare program is providing quality care to the patients.
Correctional nurses provide direct patient care, including medication administration, wound care, nebulizer treatments, and other more complex care based upon the patient’s treatment plan.
I never considered a career in correctional nursing; however, I have found it to be very rewarding. Because your patients are with you for an extended period of time, you are able to truly see the positive impacts you are having in their lives on a daily basis. When they are released, you feel that you have truly helped them be the best person they can be, and hope that they share the knowledge in their community
What does a day in the life of a correctional nurse look like?
Being a correctional nurse means you work fluidly between multiple specialties. Within an eight hour shift you could be a mental health nurse, a public health nurse, a community health nurse, an acute care nurse, an emergency room nurse, a primary care nurse, a case management nurse, a palliative care nurse, an infection control nurse, an occupational health nurse, a utilization review nurse, a nurse educator, and a med-surg nurse to name a few. A correctional nurse can come in and have a plan in place for how their day is going to go, only to learn that they have a medical emergency to take care of that alters the plan. Flexibility is key.
Some of the other roles that you might be involved in is providing education to an individual patient, or a group of patients. You may be responding to urgent/emergent problems or assisting in the management of chronic medical conditions. You may be dealing with patients in an open or community setting, or with patients secured within their cell. You may be dealing with patients in need of treatment with Medications for Opioid Use Disorder (MOUD), and patients with mental health needs.
- Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Immigration Health Services Corps, or a contracted facility
- Jails & Prisons
- Juvenile Detention Centers
- Correctional Healthcare Acute Care Clinics
- Urgent/emergent Clinics
- Primary Care Clinics Infirmaries
- Nursing Care Centers
- Palliative Care Units
- Hospitals within Jails/Prisons
- Community Correctional Settings
- County Jails or State Prisons
- Federal Bureau of Prisons
Get your Correctional Health Professional Certification from the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare.
You’re ready to work as a Certified Correctional Health Professional.