How to Become a Correctional Facility Nurse:
The Definitive Guide


Everybody needs nurses, and that includes men and women who are incarcerated in jails and prisons around the country.

There may be extra safety risks involved with this kind of nursing, but the job of a Correctional Facility Nurse is just as important.

As a Correctional Facility Nurse, you’ll treat emergency and routine cases, and work with many people throughout the prison system.

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What is a Correctional Facility Nurse?

A Correctional Facility Nurse is someone who cares for people that are incarcerated.

As a Correctional Facility Nurse, you’ll go behind prison walls to diagnose, treat, and care for patients that can’t leave.

The role of a Correctional Facility Nurse is extremely important within the correctional facility, but also for everyone else on the outside as well.

It takes a special sort of person to be a Correctional Facility Nurse, one that is strong and has a thick skin.

It’s important to remember that you will be working around criminals in this career.

Duties

Just like any other nurse, a Correctional Facility Nurse works with patients who need medical attention.

Some of the duties you can expect to do in a day include:

  • Administer medical care
  • Treat acute and chronic illnesses
  • Treat injuries
  • Routine health maintenance of inmates
  • Document medical patient history
  • Maintain disease clinics

Salary

On average, a Correctional Facility Nurse can make around $57,000 a year.

When just starting out in the field, it is likely that you will make around $51,000.

That is because many people do not know exactly what they are doing right when they start a career, more experience means more money.

With more education, certifications, and specializations, it is possible to make upwards of around $66,000 as a Correctional Facility Nurse.

Depending on which type of facility you work, and the funding available for that facility, your salary can vary.

Those that have certifications and specializations are typically ones who earn more money in this career as well.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

Annually National Average Salary: $50,130

$31K
$37K
$50K
$60K
$78K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%

Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$38,840
Alaska$64,410
Arizona$42,640
Arkansas$35,070
California$78,510
Colorado$51,880
Connecticut$53,720
Florida$43,010
Georgia$34,320
Hawaii$59,950
Idaho$41,690
Illinois$60,090
Indiana$37,430
Iowa$50,400
Kansas$37,920
Kentucky$35,640
Louisiana$36,010
Maine$42,010
Maryland$49,670
Massachusetts$68,270
Michigan$53,030
Minnesota$53,510
Mississippi$31,490
Missouri$33,380
Montana$41,240
Nebraska$41,530
Nevada$63,090
New Hampshire$47,000
New Jersey$71,190
New Mexico$37,450
New York$66,000
North Carolina$40,060
North Dakota$46,180
Ohio$46,300
Oklahoma$33,770
Oregon$60,100
Pennsylvania$55,330
Rhode Island$68,540
South Carolina$37,830
South Dakota$40,010
Tennessee$36,990
Texas$42,470
Utah$47,690
Vermont$46,080
Virginia$42,380
Washington$59,110
West Virginia$38,740
Wisconsin$45,320
Wyoming$45,430

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is California, where the average salary is $78,510.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

California - $78,510
New Jersey - $71,190
Rhode Island - $68,540
Massachusetts - $68,270
New York - $66,000
* Employment conditions in your area may vary. * Salary information based on the May 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey.
Conducted by: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor.

How to Become a Correctional Facility Nurse

Step 1Earn a Degree

With any nursing job, it is required to have at least an Associates degree in Nursing, but some nurses decide to earn a Bachelors degree.

It is up to you what you would like to do, but it is advised to gain more education in order to work as a Correctional Facility Nurse.

It may be wise to gain an education in the Criminal Justice field as well.

A Bachelors degree in Nursing can take around four years to complete.

There are general courses to take with this major, such as English, Biology, and Math, but you will be required to take some more personalized courses as well:

  • Psychology
  • Nursing Practice and Theory
  • Fundamentals of Microbiology
  • Nursing Research
  • Public Health Nursing
  • Nursing Care for Older Adults

Some of the Criminal Justice courses you should consider taking for this career include:

  • Correctional Programs in the United States
  • Foundations of Criminal Behavior
  • Communication in Corrections
  • Working with Juvenile Defenders
  • Maintaining Boundaries

After graduation, it is important that you register with the National Council of State Boards of Nursing to take the NCLEX-RN exam.

This exam will allow you to work as a registered nurse in the United States.

You will not be able to work in the United States as a nurse without this credential.

Step 2Gain Experience

After earning your RN license and learning everything that you need to know in school, it’s time to search the job market.

It is not advised to begin working as a Correctional Facility Nurse right out of school.

This is due to the harsh environment and sometimes dangerous people that are incarcerated.

Instead, it is important to gain experience working as a registered nurse in a hospital, doctor’s office, or clinic.

After working in one of these facilities for up to four years, it’s possible to transition into working in a correctional facility.

Although most employers do not require special certification to work in the prison system, it could be helpful to earn the Certified Correctional Health Professional certification to increase your job marketability.

Gaining experience as a Correctional Facility Nurse will provide you with some incredible knowledge.

Some of the things that you’ll do in this career include:

  • Intake exams
  • Medication administration
  • Chronic care
  • Inpatient care
  • Mental Health evaluation

Step 3Become Certified

The Certified Correctional Health Professional is given through the National Commission on Correctional Health Care and is designed to show that prison nurses have mastered the knowledge and skills of national standards.

In order to be eligible for this certification, a Correctional Facility Nurse must:

  • Have registered nursing credentials
  • Have good character
  • Good fitness level

The Certified Correctional Health Professional exam costs $205 dollars to take.

You do not need to have any correctional facility experience in order to take this exam.

However, you must have at least two years of experience as a registered nurse.

Some of the exam questions will refer to prison-related content, but many others are about typical nursing information and skills.

This certification is good for five years, after which you’ll need to retake the exam.


Education

In order to work as any kind of nurse, it is important to earn a degree in nursing.

Some people choose to earn an Associates degree, which can take around two years to complete.

Others decide to work toward a Bachelors degree, this can take up to four years to finish.

An Associates degree is considered the least amount of education needed to work as a nurse.

With an Associates degree program, you’ll gain knowledge in areas like:

  • Assisting physicians during physical exams
  • Dressing wounds and incisions
  • Reviewing patient treatment plans
  • Running and analyzing tests

An Associates in Nursing program can take less time than a Bachelors degree program, but you can gain employment in:

  • Physician’s office
  • Nursing care facilities
  • Government agencies
  • Travel nursing organizations

There are a couple of different Bachelors degrees that you can earn as a nurse.

The first is LPN-BSN.

This degree allows LPNs, which are Licensed Practical Nurses, to gain employment as a registered nurse.

The RN-BSN program is for registered nurses who already have an associates degree.

With an Associates degree, the Bachelors degree program may only take two years to complete.

With a Bachelors degree in nursing, you will cover a variety of topics:

  • Nursing Assessment
  • Statistics
  • Nursing Theory
  • Basic Pharmacology
  • Life Span

It’s also important to do clinicals and internships for this degree, as on the job experience will provide you the best education.

Another thing to think about is taking courses directed toward the criminal justice field.

This way, when you decide to work as a Correctional Facility Nurse, you’ll have knowledge of the criminal justice system.

Some of the courses that you should consider taking include:

  • Constitutional Law
  • Crime in America
  • Theory and Practice of Criminal Justice
  • Crime Prevention

It’s even possible to earn a Minor in Criminal Justice at the same time as working toward a major in Nursing.

This could provide you with many doors after graduation, as the degrees could be used in multiple careers.

Video About The Career


Certification

Although gaining a certification as a Certified Correctional Health Professional is not legally required, it is something that will put you above nurses who do not have this credential.

The Certified Correctional Health Professional certification can be earned by taking an exam that will measure your knowledge and skill set pertaining to working in a correctional facility.

In order to be eligible for this exam, you must have two years of experience working as a registered nurse and be in good physical condition.

The exam lasts for two hours and consists of 100 multiple choice questions as well as 80 essay questions.

This exam is given at different testing sites throughout the year in the United States.

In order to find one closest to you, it’s wise to Google CCHP testing sites.

After finishing the exam, you will know within two weeks whether you have passed or failed.

Recertification is required after five years, and also may require some additional education that is up to the state in which you live as well as the correctional facility you work for.

With a certification as a Correctional Facility Nurse, you’ll gain achievement and leadership in:

  • Experience with a wide variety of people
  • Public health
  • Working with dedicated professionals

You’ll also find that working in a correctional facility may cause some stress, these areas may include:

  • Strict security regulations
  • Crowded facilities
  • Legal and public health considerations

After earning a certification as a Correctional Health Professional, it’s possible to earn certifications in:

  • Certified Correctional Health Professional-Advanced
  • Certified Correctional Health Professional-Mental Health
  • Certified Correctional Health Professional-Physician
  • Certified Correctional Health Professional-Registered Nurse

In order to earn most of these credentials, more education is required.

For example, with the Certified Correctional Health Professional-Advanced certification, you must have three years of experience as a Correctional Facility Nurse with a Certified Correction Health Professional certification.

For the Certified Correctional Health Professional-Mental Health certification, you must be a licensed mental health professional before earning the certification.

Certification Example:

rn nurse certificate

Average Training Program Duration: 2-4 Years

There is no average training program duration in order to gain certification as a Correctional Facility Nurse.

Those that desire taking the exam in order to become certified an do it whenever they want to.

However, there are testing sites and dates throughout the year that may differ between states.

Many websites provide workbooks in order to pass the Certified Correctional Health Professional exam.

Popular Degree Programs


Job Outlook

The career of a Correctional Facility Nurse is looking to grow around twelve percent within the next decade.

This means that more jobs will be available for the foreseeable future.

The reason for the rise in job opportunities for this career is due to the aging baby boomer population and the ability to get medical attention for a variety of illnesses that weren’t available in the past.

Nurses in correctional facilities will also see this rise as many baby boomers are incarcerated at this time.

Other things to keep in mind are the size of the facility you work in, as well as whether it’s a jail, prison, or juvenile detention center.

* The numbers are based on all registered nurses and are not exclusive to correctional facility nurses.

Employment Growth Projection: 12%

3,059,800
2018
3,431,300
2028

That's a higher than average projected growth of 371,500 jobs.


Should You Become a Correctional Facility Nurse?

Overall Satisfaction

Overall Satisfaction: Low

Being a nurse is already stressful, but adding the role of a Correctional Facility Nurse can prove to be too much for some.

Many Correctional Facility Nurses are not satisfied with their careers, as it can be hard to deal with inmates and incarcerated people.

However, those that have a thick skin and can handle dealing with extra stressors say that this career is satisfactory.

It’s hard to keep nurses in this type of career, so knowing what personal skills you must have will help you along the way.

Average Salary

Average Salary: High

In the United States, the average salary for a Correctional Facility Nurse is around $57,000 a year.

Those that find themselves new to the career can expect a salary of around $51,000 to begin.

After many years of experience, certifications, and even specializations, a Correctional Facility Nurse can make around $66,000 a year.

Different job requirements and expectations can cause a shift in salary.

The facility that you work in, whether a prison, jail, or juvenile detention center, can also have an effect on your salary.

Job Growth Outlook

Job Growth Outlook: High

The demand for health care workers will increase within the next decade, which means that the job growth for a Correctional Facility Nurse is on the rise as well, at about twelve percent.

The aging population and the use of medical facilities for many more illnesses will mean that more hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices will be built.

Along with that, more medical attention is given to incarcerated people, especially those with life-altering diseases.

Getting into this field is lucrative, and will be for a long time.

Education Duration

Education Duration: 2-4 Years

In order to become a Correctional Facility Nurse, you’ll need to have at least an Associates degree in Nursing.

Most Correctional Facility Nurses have worked as registered nurses for several years before transferring to these types of facilities.

Some nurses decide that they want to earn a Bachelors degree in Nursing, which can open more doors in this field.

A Bachelors degree can take around four years to complete.

All in all, it can take from two years to four years to become a Correctional Facility Nurse.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

Since being a Correctional Facility Nurse is a stressful job, there are several personal skills needed to succeed.

These skills include:

  • Incredible communication skills
  • Resilience
  • Patience
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Decision-making skills
  • Compassion for others
  • Evidence-based practices
  • Prioritization
  • Autonomy

Other skills to think about with this career are self-defense and conflict resolution skills.

Great knowledge of the criminal justice system and nursing will also help with this career.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the average salary for a Correctional Facility Nurse?

Depending on how long you’ve worked in the field, there can be a difference in how much you make as a Correctional Facility Nurse.

The average Correctional Facility Nurse makes around $57,000 a year.

When just starting out in the professional, it is more likely that you will make around $51,000 a year.

After years of experience and certifications, it is possible to make up to $66,000 a year as a Correctional Facility Nurse.

Q. How long does it take to become a Correctional Facility Nurse?

The average nursing degree program can take around four years to complete, and that will earn you a Bachelors degree in Nursing.

Many people suggest that before you begin working as a Correctional Facility Nurse, that you gain some experience working in a hospital or other facility to get used to nursing.

This means that it can take around six years to become a Correctional Facility Nurse.

Q. What does a Correctional Facility Nurse do?

A Correctional Facility Nurse works with incarcerated men and women to take care of them when they are sick or injured.

There may be an emergency that needs your attention, or sometimes inmates need medications, shots, or other checkups.

Providing medical attention to incarcerated people can be stressful, but there are many rewards in this career as well.

Q. What is the demand for Correctional Facility Nurses?

There is a high demand for nurses in all types of facilities, but the demand for Correctional Facility Nurses is even larger.

Many jails, prisons, and juvenile dentition centers do not have enough nurses to help with every inmate.

This means that more and more nurses are being recruited, especially because the turn around rate in these facilities is large.

Q. How much does it cost to become a Correctional Facility Nurse?

The amount of money it costs to become a Correctional Facility Nurse depends on which type of nursing program you attend.

Many people go for their Associates degree in Nursing, which can cost anywhere from $10,000-$20,000 depending on the school that you go to.

Others decide they want to work toward a Bachelors degree, this can cost anywhere from $15,000-$35,000.

It can cost between $10,000 and $35,000 to become a Correctional Facility Nurse.


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