The following is a guest post by Lorry Schoenly, PhD, RN, CCHP-RN, nurse author and educator specializing in the field of correctional healthcare.

If you are thinking about a career behind bars, you may find some surprises. Here are five things you need to know before becoming a correctional nurse.

1. It is safer than you think

I am frequently asked if it is safe to work in a jail or prison. After all, the patients are criminals, right?  While this is true, the security processes in correctional facilities provide added protection for healthcare staff. There are officers assigned to protect staff in the medical unit and patients are classified as to violence potential.

Many correctional nurses feel safer in this environment than working in traditional settings where security may be less vigilant.

2. Most patients are so appreciative

Many prisoners have had poor or no health care prior to being incarcerated and appreciate the attention given while “inside.” In addition, incarceration is a dehumanizing and demoralizing experience.

Nurses, by profession, are patient-focused. There is an unmistakable difference in this type of interaction. Inmates feel this difference and appreciate nursing staff.

3. I see some unusual conditions

No doubt about it, you see some interesting cases in corrections.

Many patients have been living on the streets with untreated conditions. Infections like leprosy and tuberculosis have been noted, as has botulism from drinking tainted prison hooch.

Dental conditions are common. I definitely wish there had been more about dental diseases in my nursing training!

4. I need to collaborate and negotiate like never before

Most nurses work in settings where the goals of top management are healthcare-focused. Not so in correctional facilities.

The medical unit is a support service and top management has a goal of public and personal safety. Therefore, correctional nurses sometimes need to negotiate with administration and officer peers in order to advance patient therapy.

5. Self-care is all important

All nursing can be stressful, but I didn’t realize just how stressful it can be to care for prisoners. These patients are often traumatized, with histories of abuse and neglect. It is easy to absorb this stress vicariously.

Compassion fatigue and general correctional stress can easily build to crippling levels if unattended. Self-care is more important than ever as a correctional nurse.

Explore Correctional Healthcare

Correctional nursing is not for everyone, but many nurses find it a fulfilling and rewarding career.

Incarcerated patients are marginalized and vulnerable. They also can be ornery and impulsive. They rarely have a history of quality health care, which gives nurses an opportunity to truly make a difference in their health and well-being.

Where are the best Correctional Healthcare Job Opportunities?

High-paying nursing opportunities abound. As a skilled correctional nurse, you are in control of your career. Check out the best jobs from coast to coast on our job board. Get the pay and career path you deserve.