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Correctional Nurse Career Guide

In prisons, detention facilities, and group homes, correctional nurses are in charge of inmates' medical requirements. They are in charge of managing all medical care and stabilizing jailed patients until they may be transferred to a higher level of medical care. We'll go over what a Correctional Nurse does, how to become one, how much they make, and more in this guide!


Correctional nurses assist in the treatment and care of convicts suffering from acute, chronic, or emergency medical illnesses. Correctional nurses must be ready for everything because of their job environment. Correctional nurses frequently encounter traumatic injuries, infectious infections, and mental health difficulties. These patients must be stabilized before being transferred to receive advanced medical treatment.

Correctional nurses sometimes deal with a small number of other healthcare professionals and have limited resources. As a result, correctional nurses must have great evaluation skills and the ability to work with with the tools available to them.

Tasks and Responsibilities

Correctional nurses must be prepared to deal with a wide range of medical and health issues. Correctional nurses are frequently called upon to care for convicts who have been stabbed, fought, or poisoned. These health-related concerns are sometimes only seen by correctional nurses. As a result, a solid medical-surgical background is required. A Correctional Nurse's more specific responsibilities include:

  • Taking care of people with chronic illnesses like diabetes and hypertension

  • Keeping track of patient medical histories, particularly for new detainees

  • Patients' vital indicators are being monitored.

  • Medication administration

  • Changing the bandage on the wound

  • Maintaining state and federal government-mandated rules and safety procedures

  • Assessments and referrals for mental health

  • Collaboration with other medical professionals

  • Monitoring the patient's development and treatment response

  • Patient education on their diagnosis and medical treatment

  • Supervising supplementary personnel such as LPNs and CNAs

  • Conducting drug testing

  • Performing physical examinations

  • Biological samples, such as blood samples, are collected.

  • Examining the medical records of the patient

  • Patients are referred to experts for more specialized treatment and care.

  • Taking care of patients in cases of stabbings and heart attacks.

  • Assuring the secure storage of all medical equipment, including needles and scalpels


As stated by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), The typical pay for a registered nurse in 2019 is $73,300 per year or $35.24 per hour, although conditions in your region may differ. Although the BLS does not distinguish between various nursing specializations, claims that Correctional Nurses earn an annual average pay of $65,870. According to, the average yearly wage is $64,803.

Federal correctional nurses will be compensated according to the federal wage scale, which takes into account a variety of parameters.

How to Become a Correctional Nurse

Step 1: Earn a Nursing Degree

To begin your career as a registered nurse, you'll need to get either an ADN or a BSN from a recognized nursing institution. Nurses who have completed their ADN can go on to get their BSN degree if they choose.

Step 2: Pass the NCLEX-RN

Step 3: Obtain Experience at the Bedside

Compared to other nursing professions, correctional nurses have more autonomy. As a result, it's critical that they have a solid medical-surgical nursing foundation.

Step 4: Earn Your Certification

The CCHP-RN certification is offered by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care to qualifying persons. Individuals must first achieve the CCHP certification before pursuing the CCHP-RN.

  • Credentials relevant to the applicant's field and work position, as well as the requirements of the United States state or territory in which the applicant is licensed.

  • Any limitation that would confine professional practice primarily to the correctional context must be removed from the credentials. If a license or certificate isn't required for practice, it's also not necessary for certification.

  • Character and physical fitness are important.

  • CCHP certification must be current.

  • Current, valid RN license in a U.S. state (credentials will be examined on a case-by-case basis for Canada and U.S. territories); license must not be restricted to practice solely in correctional settings.

  • The equivalent of two years of full-time nursing practice

  • Within the previous three years, 2,000 hours of experience in a correctional setting

  • Within the previous three years, I completed 54 hours of nursing continuing education, 18 of which were dedicated to correctional health care.

Work Locations and Schedules

Correctional nurses work mostly in jails and prisons. In addition, they may work in juvenile correctional centers, halfway houses, and group homes. Correctional nurses might work for the state or the federal government. Correctional nurses might also work for a contractor organization that offers state or federally funded care.

Government workers are those that work for the state or federal government and are subject to different rules, regulations, training, and requirements than other employees. Due to state and federal restrictions, government personnel will be held to certain standards and will require additional training.

Full-time and part-time nurses both have equal benefits regardless of where they work. While real advantages differ by institution, the following are the most common:

  • Health insurance

  • Certification Reimbursement

  • Retirement Options

  • Holiday Pay

  • Family Leave of Absence

  • Maternity Leave

  • Dental Insurance

  • Dependent health insurance coverage

  • Life Insurance

  • Paid time off

  • Relocation assistance

  • Childcare

  • Bereavement leave

  • Vision Insurance

  • Discounts on extracurricular activities

  • Continuing Education Reimbursement

  • Relocation packages

  • Attendance at nursing conferences


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States had 3,096,700 Registered Nurses in 2019. There will be a demand for 221,900 extra nurses by 2029, representing a 7% increase.

As all locations are required by state and federal law to have a correctional nurse on duty, the need for correctional nurses will continue to increase. Nurses will be present at most locations. Larger prisons will have many nurses on duty throughout shifts and around the clock, but smaller jails may only have one nurse on duty at specified times.

Continuing Education

In most cases, an individual must fill out an application, complete a certain amount of CEU hours, and pay a small cost in order to renew their RN license. Each state has its own standards, so verify with your state's nursing board before filing for a license renewal.

The CEU requirement will be for the state of permanent residence if the RN license is part of a compact nursing license. CEUs in child abuse, opioids, and/or pain treatment are required in several jurisdictions.

Individuals who hold the CCHP-RN Eligibility Certification must complete 18 hours of continuing education each year. There are two types of continuing education, according to the CCHP-RN website. The CEU hours required for recertification can also be utilized to renew your RN licensure.

  • Category 1

    • At least 6 hours is required

    • Any correctional health-care-related continuing education activity

    • Any activity involving a health-related theme that is undertaken in a penitentiary context or that involves delivering health services to inmates

  • Category 2

    • No minimum hour requirement

    • Any CEU hours relevant to the nursing profession

Other Resources

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