Career Development

What Does a Correctional Nurse Do?

Find out what a correctional nurse does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a correctional nurse.

A correctional nurse is a healthcare professional who works with inmates in jails, prisons, and other correctional facilities. They provide medical care to these individuals, as well as monitor their health status and progress over time.

Corrections nurses are often the primary source of medical care for inmates. This means they’re responsible for diagnosing and treating illnesses and injuries, prescribing medications, performing procedures like wound dressings or injections, etc.

Correctional Nurse Job Duties

Correctional nurses have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Observing inmates for signs of physical or mental distress and reporting any abnormalities to medical staff
  • Providing basic nursing care to patients, such as changing bandages, administering medications, and assisting with bathing
  • Observing inmates for signs of mental or physical distress and reporting any such observations to appropriate staff members
  • Maintaining records of inmate health care needs, progress, and activities
  • Providing education about health issues, diet, hygiene, substance abuse, stress management, parenting skills, anger management, relationships, and other topics that may help inmates reintegrate into society after release
  • Ensuring that inmates receive adequate medical care by providing nursing services in a correctional facility
  • Supervising inmates while they are using medical equipment such as X-ray machines or dialysis machines
  • Performing duties such as administering injections and infusions, collecting blood samples, and taking medical histories
  • Working with other medical team members to ensure that inmates receive high quality care

Correctional Nurse Salary & Outlook

The salary of a correctional nurse can vary depending on their level of education and experience, the type of facility they work in, and the state in which they live.

  • Median Annual Salary: $82,500 ($39.66/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $122,000 ($58.65/hour)

The employment of correctional nurses is expected to grow faster than average over the next decade.

The need to provide medical care to a growing older population in prisons will lead to demand for correctional nurses. As people age, they are more likely to have health problems and require regular medical care.

Related: Correctional Nurse Interview Questions and Answers

Correctional Nurse Job Requirements

A correctional nurse typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: To become a correctional nurse, you will need to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Once you have your bachelor’s degree, you will need to earn a master’s degree in nursing. The master’s program will prepare you for the challenges of working in a correctional facility.

Training & Experience: Most training for this role happens through formal education and on-the-job training. During the first few weeks of employment, a new correctional nurse will likely shadow a more experienced member of the medical staff. This training period allows the new employee to learn the facility’s policies and procedures. They will also learn about the facility’s patient population and the types of injuries and illnesses they typically see.

Certifications & Licenses: After completing your education, you will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). This is a national exam that all nurses must pass before they can practice in the U.S.

You can also earn certifications that can expand your job opportunities and improve your chances of earning higher salaries.

Correctional Nurse Skills

Correctional nurses need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication skills: Communication skills are essential for correctional nurses, as they must be able to communicate with patients, other medical staff and law enforcement. These professionals must be able to explain medical procedures, answer patients’ questions and relay information to other medical staff. They must also be able to communicate with patients who may have limited English skills.

Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share another person’s feelings. As a correctional nurse, you may work with patients who have committed serious crimes and may be facing time in prison. Empathy can help you connect with patients and help them feel comfortable and safe.

Stress management: Stress management is a crucial skill for correctional nurses, as they often work in high-pressure environments. These professionals must be able to manage their own stress levels and those of their patients. They must also be able to identify and address sources of stress in their patients and help them develop coping mechanisms.

Critical thinking: Critical thinking is the ability to make quick decisions based on the information you have. As a correctional nurse, you may need to make important decisions about treatment plans for inmates, including whether to admit them to the hospital or send them to a different facility. You may also need to make decisions about how to handle emergencies, such as when an inmate is injured or has a medical emergency.

Physical stamina: Staying physically fit is important for correctional nurses, as they often work long shifts and may need to lift or move patients. Physical stamina can also help them stay alert and attentive while working with inmates.

Correctional Nurse Work Environment

Correctional nurses work in a variety of settings, including prisons, jails, and juvenile detention centers. They may also work in halfway houses, substance abuse treatment facilities, and mental health facilities. Correctional nurses typically work a standard 40-hour week, but they may be required to work evenings, weekends, and holidays. They may also be on call to work overtime when needed. Correctional nurses work in a fast-paced and often stressful environment. They must be able to deal with a variety of challenging behaviors from inmates, including violence, aggression, and verbal abuse. They must also be able to work in a sometimes dangerous environment.

Correctional Nurse Trends

Here are three trends influencing how correctional nurses work. Correctional nurses will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Use of Technology in the Correctional Setting

The use of technology in the correctional setting is a trend that is quickly gaining popularity among correctional nurses. This is due to the many benefits that it can provide, such as improved communication with other staff members and easier access to information.

As technology becomes more prevalent in the correctional setting, correctional nurses will need to learn how to use it effectively in order to stay ahead of the curve. They will also need to be familiar with the latest technologies so that they can utilize them to improve the quality of care that they provide to inmates.

A Focus on Reducing Recidivism

The focus on reducing recidivism is a trend that is seeing increasing attention from both the public and private sectors. This is because it is believed that by helping offenders avoid returning to prison after their release, we can reduce the overall cost of incarceration for society.

As a result of this trend, correctional nurses are being asked to play a larger role in the rehabilitation process. This includes providing medical care, counseling, and other services that can help offenders stay out of prison once they have been released.

An Increase in Mental Health Issues

Mental health issues are becoming increasingly common in the United States, and this is having a significant impact on the correctional system. As correctional nurses are responsible for caring for inmates with mental health issues, they will need to be prepared to deal with these challenges.

In order to be successful in this field, correctional nurses will need to be able to identify mental health issues and understand how to treat them. They will also need to be able to work with other professionals to create a treatment plan that meets the needs of the inmate.

How to Become a Correctional Nurse

A career as a correctional nurse offers many opportunities for growth and advancement. You can move up the ranks to become a charge nurse, head nurse, or even administrator. You can also specialize in areas such as mental health nursing, geriatric nursing, or addiction nursing.

No matter what stage of your career you’re at, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and best practices in correctional nursing. You can do this by attending continuing education courses, reading professional journals and newsletters, and networking with other nurses.

Advancement Prospects

Correctional nurses may advance to positions of greater responsibility within their facility, such as head nurse or nursing supervisor. Some may move into management positions, such as assistant administrator of a correctional facility. With additional education, correctional nurses may qualify for positions in public health or teaching.

Correctional Nurse Job Description Example

At [CompanyX], we provide high-quality medical care to those who need it most. We’re looking for a correctional nurse to join our team and provide care to inmates in our facility. The ideal candidate will have experience working in a correctional or detention setting, as well as a valid nursing license. He or she will be responsible for providing direct patient care, as well as performing health assessments, administering medication, and providing health education to inmates. The correctional nurse will also collaborate with other members of the healthcare team to ensure that inmates receive the best possible care.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Provide direct nursing care to a population of inmates with a wide variety of medical needs
  • Serve as a resource to inmates, staff, and outside health care providers regarding inmate health issues
  • Perform initial and ongoing assessments of inmate health status, including physical exams, history taking, and ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests
  • Develop and implement individualized treatment plans for inmates, based on assessment findings
  • Monitor the progress of inmates under your care, modifying treatment plans as needed
  • Provide health education to inmates and staff on topics such as disease prevention, healthy lifestyles, and managing chronic conditions
  • Coordinate referrals to specialty care providers as needed
  • Manage infectious diseases within the correctional setting, including tuberculosis and hepatitis
  • Participate in the development and implementation of policies and procedures related to inmate health care
  • Maintain accurate and up-to-date medical records for all inmates under your care
  • Serve on committees and work groups related to inmate health care
  • Stay abreast of developments in the field of correctional nursing through continuing education and professional memberships

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • Registered Nurse (RN) license
  • Bachelor’s degree in nursing or related field
  • 2+ years professional nursing experience, with at least 1 year in a corrections setting
  • Current CPR certification
  • Corrections Nursing Certification (CCHN-Correctional Health Nurse) preferred
  • Experience with Electronic Health Records (EHRs)

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • Master’s degree in nursing or related field
  • 4+ years professional nursing experience, with at least 2 years in a corrections setting
  • Teaching experience in nursing or related field
  • Certification as a Correctional Healthcare Manager (CCHM)


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