Across the United States, facilities that provide inpatient care are struggling to recruit enough nurses to get the job done. And in the face of a global pandemic that shows no signs of slowing, that includes not just hospitals, clinics and health centers but also the nation’s corrections systems. For this reason, working as a correctional nurse means having your choice of great jobs across the U.S.A.
Yet for many, the prospect of working at a prison or jail is an intimidating one. Many of the RNs, LVNs and LPNS and CNAs who are so badly needed for correctional facility jobs are reluctant to work in those settings. It’s an understandable concern, but it’s also misplaced. The reality is that, despite persistent myths to the contrary, working in correctional facilities can be a lucrative and rewarding career choice.
With that in mind, we consulted our experts to debunk some of the more persistent myths about working as a correctional nurse.
Debunked: 6 Myths about Working as a Correctional Facility Nurse
Myth #1: Working in Corrections looks bad on my Nursing CV.
The truth is often quite the contrary. In fact, working assignments in correctional facilities gives you a broader range of career experience. It also demonstrates your ability and willingness to tackle challenging jobs and develop new skills. And once you’ve successfully worked an assignment as a correctional nurse, you’re more readily able to land better jobs in those settings, as well as others.
Myth #2: Correctional facility jobs are dangerous.
This is one of the most persistent myths about working in correctional facilities. On the contrary, the correctional facility settings apply an extra measure of security. Officers are present during patient examinations, and each room has a call button to instantly summon security.
“Safety in corrections is probably the number one myth about our specialty,” as correctional recruitment specialist Brianna Kramer told CorrectionalNurse.net. On the contrary, though, “safety and security is a primary goal of correctional settings so the visibility of officers and primacy of safety procedure is paramount.”
“I have never feared for my safety there, ever,” Kate Olivia, who works as a correctional nurse, told VICE. “For the most part, I’ve found dealing with the incarcerated population, they’re pretty respectful to the nursing staff because they know that we’re there to help them.”
Myth #3: Correctional facility jobs don’t pay as well.
This is an assumption that isn’t just outdated, but it’s actually become the opposite of what current pay rates show. As demand grows for correctional nurses, earnings are often more substantial than what’s offered in more traditional care settings. It varies from assignment to assignment, of course. On average, though, today’s correctional nurse jobs pay very well on order to attract talented professionals.
Myth #4: Correctional care isn’t a real nursing specialty.
As Kramer points out, even though many nursing schools may not offer a correctional nursing option, it has indeed been officially acknowledged by the American Nurses Association. It’s been an official specialty since 1985, complete with its own “published Scope and Standards of Practice along with a nationally recognized certification program.”
Myth #5: Working as a correctional nurse isn’t a good choice for a long-term career.
First of all, as opposed to just a single one-size-fits-all setting, correctional nurses work in a variety of specific settings, from federal penitentiaries to county jails. Because most of these facilities are pressed for resources, they’re increasingly turning to contingency staffing partners liker CareerStaff to connect with the high-quality nurses they need.
And that means that ample career opportunities exist for nurses willing to work those jobs. Especially in high-population states with highly competitive job markets that attract lots of workers (particularly California and Texas), nurses with only a year or two’s worth of experience can find an abundance of high-paying opportunities with great benefits and flexible schedules.
Myth #6: These types of jobs require prior experience in corrections.
Some people reject the idea of working in a prison or a jail because they have no experience in law enforcement or corrections. But that experience is rarely required. The day-to-day job of a correctional nurse isn’t all that much different than they are in other settings, typically centering on routine exams, administering medication and other standard duties.
More to the point, you won’t be expected to ‘kick butt and take names.” It’s not a law enforcement job; you won’t be expected to assist officers in restraining inmates. In fact, you’ll be accompanied by an officer as you conduct most of your tasks to ensure that you can do your job without undue danger or difficulty.
Is Working as a Correctional Nurse Right for You?
Just as any other setting, correctional facility nurse jobs come with their own set of unique challenges, requiring adaptability and patience. All the same, these assignments are probably much better career opportunities than you may think! For RNs, LVNS/LPNs and CNAs seeking new challenges — or a new way to help underserved patients — it’s a chance to build experience while earning great pay.