Correctional Nurse Careers and Salary Outlook
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What is a Correctional Nurse?Correctional nurses provide direct patient care to inmates in correctional facilities, such as jails or prisons. These nurses need experience in a variety of care settings. They may treat patients for emergency medical conditions or injuries, acute illness, or chronic medical conditions. While the lead nurse likely holds an RN license or advanced practice certification, many facilities also hire LPNs to carry out RN instructions. Correctional nurses help ensure inmate health and safety with timely medical intervention while also assisting governments in managing medical expenses for their inmate population.
How to Become a Correctional NurseCorrectional nurses may hold licensure as an LPN, RN, or an advanced practice nurse. Educational, training, and testing requirements vary by state. Responsibilities increase with each license, but nurses may enter the field with as little as one year of nursing training. Often, a prison or jail infirmary serves as both an emergency care center and a primary care facility for patients. A correctional nurse degree should include clinical rotations in these specialties, followed by 1-2 years of work experience.
EducationA correctional nurse degree may require only one year of coursework to become an LPN. Registered nurse programs may take two years to complete. Degree-seekers study biology, anatomy, and pharmacology. Curriculum also includes extensive fieldwork and clinical rotations. These experiences allow students to apply the skills they learn in the classroom in practical settings. Programs must be approved by the state board of nursing or licensing board. Learners should also ensure their school holds regional accreditation and programmatic accreditation from the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. After completing an associate degree in nursing, many schools offer bridge programs to bachelor's or master's degrees in nursing. These programs allow nurses to specialize in a particular area of patient care and advance their career opportunities.
Training and CertificationAfter professionals complete their nursing education, states require they pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). The NCLEX offers exams for practical nurses and registered nurses, depending on education level. Nurses must apply for licensure in the state where they will work. The application includes a review of nurses' education, character, and background. Most states conduct a criminal background check and require disclosure of convictions. If individuals move, they must apply for a license in their new state of employment. However, 34 states have joined a nurse licensure compact that recognizes nursing licenses from member states. Once licensed, nurses may begin work. Part of how to become a correctional nurse includes experience in a variety of care settings, such as hospitals, critical care units, or emergency departments. Many correctional nurses also seek specialized credentials. While voluntary, these certifications show nurses possess the specialized knowledge and skills necessary to work in correctional facilities. The National Commission on Correctional Health Care offers the Certified Correctional Health Professional designation for RNs. The organization also offers certification as an advanced correctional health professional and a mental health designation.
Correctional Nurse Salaries and Job GrowthHow much does a correctional nurse make? Registered nurses enjoy substantial employment opportunities across all specializations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects jobs for nurses to grow 12% through 2028, with about 371,500 new positions. An aging population, greater emphasis on preventative healthcare, and making greater use of nurses' healthcare knowledge drives employment. Correctional nursing continues to need highly qualified nurses. The BLS projects jobs in the correctional field to decrease 7% through 2028 thanks to efforts to reform sentencing laws and seek alternatives to incarceration. However, job prospects remain strong due to the need to replace officers who retire or transfer to other occupations. Correctional facility staff must still provide medical services for the individuals placed in their care, as well. Education, training, and location impact a correctional nurse's salary. RNs earn $63,263 compared to LPNs who earn $43,528. RNs with emergency room experience earn an average of $66,391, while critical care nurses earn $72,656. Los Angeles and New York pay the highest salaries for correctional nurses.
|Los Angeles, California||$86,670|
|New York, New York||$82,874|
Median Salary for Registered Nurses by Career Experience
|Medical Assistant||Certified Nurse Assistant||Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)||Registered Nurse (RN), Emergency Room||Registered Nurse (RN), Critical Care|
Correctional Nurse Resources
- American Correctional Association ACA leadership includes a subject matter expert in correctional healthcare, with voluntary accreditation standards for facilities and professional certification. This national organization provides members with a subscription to Corrections Today magazine. Members also receive discounts on conference registration costs and voting privileges in elections. Professional development includes online courses, in-person training events, and a self-study certification program.
- National Commission on Correctional Health Care This national organization strives to improve the quality of healthcare in prisons, jails, and juvenile facilities. NCCHC offers voluntary professional certifications for healthcare providers working in the correctional industry and sets standards for correctional healthcare services. The commission also conducts research and weighs in on policy discussions. The group's online bookstore and periodicals help correctional nurses prepare for certification and stay abreast of field developments.
- CorrectionalNurse.net Authors and correctional nurses, Dr. Lori Roscoe and Lorry Schoenly, share their industry experience through this online blog. They discuss bodybuilding, patient advocacy, and medical concerns related to tasers and other electronic control weapons. These nurses also share a collection of resources related to the medical needs of incarcerated individuals and guidelines for correctional healthcare teams.
- Nurse.com Job Search Job seekers can use this national job search service to browse jobs by specialty, location, contract, and shift. Individuals can create a free account and upload their resumes, receive job alerts, and track their applications. The site also includes a blog related to the nursing profession and available resources. Users can enjoy a variety of continuing education opportunities through online learning or live sessions.
- American Nurses Association ANA allows nurses across the county to connect with other nurses in their specialization. Communities cater to new nurses, experienced nurses, and nursing leaders. The organization offers panels discussing professional concerns like ethics, nurse abuse, and connect health. Several nurses also post blogs sharing their thoughts on a variety of nursing-related issues.
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