Correctional Facility Nurse


A correctional facility nurse, commonly known as a prison nurse, provides nursing services to incarcerated populations. The correctional facility nurse may be an LVN or LPN or may be an RN. The health issues a nurse encounters in the inmate population can be diverse and provide a nursing challenge for even the most experienced professional. This is a rewarding career for the right individual who is both compassionate and firm.

Correctional Facility Nurse Job Description & Scope of Practice

The prison nurse will assist the doctor on sick call. In institutions like prisons, juvenile homes, jails, and penitentiaries, the Nurse Practitioner or RN (BSN) will hold sick call and refer inmates to the physician as necessary. The nurse will dispense daily medications to patients as directed by the physician together with other typical nursing roles. A nurse in a correctional facility will often have more latitude in decision making than in other nursing settings.

This type of nursing requires the nurse to adhere to standard nursing protocols as well as security procedures applicable to the inmate population. Most correctional facility nurses will also be required to have some training provided by the facility in security protocols.

How to Become a Correctional Facility Nurse

Larger correctional facilities may have full hospitals attached, and utilize the services of Certified Nursing Assistants, LPN or LVN diploma holders as well as Registered nurses and Nurse Practitioners. The correctional facility nurse will normally be required to undergo a thorough background check as well as drug screening before hiring.

Correctional Facility Nurse Education Requirements, Certification, and Schooling Programs

The correctional facility nurse education required for this position will depend upon the facility type. The aging prison population requires nurses familiar with all manner of diseases, injuries and ailments including the health issues that may be common with aging inmate. What follows are some of the most common requirements for nurses in a correctional facility.

  • Clean background check (some facilities require an FBI background and fingerprint check).
  • Pass a drug screening test.
  • Hold a Diploma as an LPN Or LVN or RN.
  • Pass the state board and be licensed to practice nursing as an LPN, LVN or RN. Nurse practitioners must be certified and hold a current certification as an APN practice nurse in their field of specialty.
  • Attend orientation on security procedures in the hiring facility.
  • The National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) recommends correctional-facility nurses and those wishing to become correctional-facility nurses to become certified as a Certified Correctional Health Professional (CCHP). Applicants must pass a character and fitness evaluation as well as a written or computer-based examination consisting of 100 multiple-choice questions. The exam takes two hours to complete and covers health care procedures and legal issues that nurses confront in correctional facilities. Certification is not required. However, the certificate demonstrates knowledge and skills needed to work in a correctional facility.

Correctional Facility Nurse Salary and Career Outlook

A correctional facility RN holding a two year degree in nursing earns on average of around $59,000 per year. The job outlook for this challenging specialty is bright as the number of incarcerated individuals continues to grow and correctional facilities house a growing aging inmate population. The BLS predicts the average job growth for nurses will be around 21% through the year 2018.

A correctional facility nurse will also be eligible for signing bonuses, and benefits in many facilities due to the shortage of nurses in the country. Advancement opportunities are plentiful for nurses with Bachelor and Master degree nursing education. A correctional facility nurse may work with juveniles, male populations, female populations or in maximum security settings.

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