Quick Facts :
Correctional Care Nurse


Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses, May 2017

info-icon ADN or BSN
info-icon $73,550 Annual Wage
info-icon 15% Job Growth


What Is a Correctional Nurse?

The number of individuals in our nation’s correctional facilities and prisons is staggering, and it continues to grow. The millions of detainees have medical needs, just like every other citizen, and these needs must be met in a timely and professional manner.

Despite the fact that working as a correctional nurse does have some safety risks, the majority of professionals in this field find their work to be just as rewarding as nurses in traditional settings.

A correctional nurse is a nursing professional that cares for and treats inmates and other detainees in correctional facilities and jails. These nursing professionals choose to go behind prison walls every day to attend to the health needs of detainees. They treat perform both routine and emergency medical procedures. Their hard work and dedication inside prison walls makes for a safer and more secure environment outside those same walls, due to the fact that their presence ensures that the detainees do not need to be transported for medical treatment.

Because of the settings that this nursing career requires, it certainly isn’t a choice for everyone. In fact, it takes a special sort of person to become a correctional nurse. Despite the fact that correctional nurses work with individuals that commit – sometimes heinous – crimes, for example, they must be able to treat each one with objectivity and respect, as well as compassion and sometimes assertiveness.

Correctional nurses must also be aware of and somewhat comfortable with the fact that they are working around criminals. They care for petty criminals as well as violent offenders, as well as every type of criminal in between. As a correctional nurse, you must be comfortable with the fact that you could possibly be working in close proximity to some of the nations most dangerous people, including sexual predators and murderers.

Although correctional nurses must view their patients as just that – patients – first, they must also be aware of certain security and safety risks as well. In order to do this, they are typically required to adhere to strict policies and take precautions when administering medical attention to ensure the safety of themselves, custody officers, and other detainees safe.

What Do Correctional Nurses Do?

Unlike nurses in some other specialties, correctional nurses typically deal with a wide range of medical problems. They administer both routine and emergency medical care, and they treat acute and chronic illnesses, as well as injuries.

Correctional nurses are responsible for the routine health care of inmates with certain pre-existing medical conditions. This might include illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and seizure disorders. While in custody, detainees can also develop acute or chronic illnesses, ranging from influenza to AIDS, and it is the correctional nurses’ job to care for them. If a detainee is required to take medications, correctional nurses are also required to administer these medications under strict supervision.

At times, prisons and correctional facilities can be very dangerous places, and injuries – unintentional or otherwise – are not at all uncommon. Correctional nurses must be prepared to handle injuries such as stabbings and broken bones. In some instances, such as when a correctional facility healthcare ward is unable to attend to an emergency, a correctional nurse might also be required to accompany patients to outside medical facilities for additional treatment.

Where Do Correctional Nurses Work?

Correctional nurses are employed by both private and government run detention centers, as well as temporary holding facilities. They might work in correctional facilities, prisons, and jails at the federal, state, and county levels. Some are also employed by juvenile detention centers and so-called boot camps.

How Do I Become a Correctional Nurse?

Before you start your career as a correctional nurse, you must first take the necessary steps to become a licensed nursing professional, such as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or a registered nurse (RN). Both of these options require you to complete nursing training or obtain a nursing degree, and pass a rigorous licensure examination.

After you’ve become licensed, you should also gain some experience in a traditional nursing setting, such as a hospital. Experience in an emergency care setting is often helpful, but it’s not always required.

Once you’re hired as a correctional nurse, be prepared to go through additional training that will help prepare you for this career. This training will often cover such areas as safety and security. You can also become a Certified Correctional Health Professional by passing the certification examination offered by the National Commission on Correctional Healthcare.

Additional Resources for Correctional Nursing