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Who Employs Correctional Nurses?

Who Employs Correctional Nurses?

If you are thinking about jumping into the interesting world of correctional nursing you may be looking for employers in all the wrong places. Unlike a traditional healthcare setting, correctional health care units may not be managed in-house, although many are. Below is a primer on various correctional health care management structures.



Governmental Agencies (Self-Operated)

Most correctional nurses do work for the same employer as their custody peers.  Currently about 58% of correctional healthcare facilities are in this category. The industry calls this self-operated or self-op. Health care managers in this management structure are a part of the organizational hierarchy and reporting framework. This can be a great advantage for making change or obtaining resources as the health care manager is on parity with other services, therefore fostering support for inmate medical needs. There are disadvantages to this arrangement, as well. Although the well-being of the inmate population is a common goal for both custody and nursing staff, professional frameworks and guiding principles can differ. Nurses in these organizations must be vigilant to maintain professional nursing judgment in all matters of care delivery. 

Independent Health Care Service Companies

The next most frequent health care management structures is  an independent health care company. Thirty (30)% of correctional health care is provided through a contracted arrangement between the government entity and a health care company. Nurses are most often employees of the health care service company and report to managers within the company.  In this situation, correctional nurses need to understand the contractual relationship with the corrections administration to know what may be required of them. For example, services may include providing health care to security staff and emergency treatment to visitors. Also important is an understanding of the communication and reporting structures among all the players. In this situation nurses are guests in the facility and must strive to develop collaborative working relationships with custody staff. 

State University Medical Systems

Several state prison systems provide health care to inmates through the state university system.  Twelve percent (12)% of correctional healthcare is delivered in this manner. For example, in Connecticut inmates receive care through the University of Connecticut medical system and in New Jersey health care services are provided through the state’s University of Medicine and Dentistry. Nurses working in these systems have the advantage of access to academic resources while nursing, medical, and dentistry students have an opportunity to experience the correctional environment. The corollary in jails is that the county health department may provide the health care at the jail. In this situation nurses have the advantage of access to the resources of the county health department.  Although health care staff are not employees of the same entity as corrections staff, a common relationship exists among the government bodies.

Other Correctional Nurse Employers

Nurses may come to practice correctional nursing through other avenues. One area of correctional nursing practice is a locked unit within a community hospital. Hospitals may contract with Departments of Corrections to centralize acute care for inmates. A wing or floor of an acute care facility may be fitted for increased security. All patients on the unit are prisoners from surrounding facilities. Custody officers monitor patients while care is given by nurses employed by the acute care facility.

Nurses may also care for inmate patients as agency or traveling nurses. Many state prisons are located in remote areas far from potential nurse employees. Agency or traveling nurses are engaged for short and long-term assignments at one or several correctional facilities within a system.

So, if you are interesting in trying this nursing specialty, you have a variety of employers to check into. You also have some valuable information to jump-start your correctional career over at the Correctional Healthcare Campus.  This Campus contains online continuing education, CE, courses addressing the unique education needs of those healthcare professionals caring for incarcerated individuals in jails, prisons and juvenile facilities. 

This post first appeared in correctionalnurse.net
Posted: 8/3/2014 7:26:03 AM
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