Nyoka Young is a colleague of mine with over two and a half decades of nursing experience. Sixteen of those years were spent working in several different correctional facilities. I spoke to her about her experience while working in the infirmary of a jail.
1. Can a new nurse get real experience working at a correctional facility?
Yes, all inmates are seen by the in house facility and only sent out to the hospital if deemed necessary by the infirmary. A new nurse would see all sorts of diseases and health problems. There is a whole medical team to learn from, although there may be times when you will have to take charge of the situation.
2. Is it dangerous working in that environment?
It really depends on where you work. Most places enforce strict codes of conduct. Security in these places consists of constant video surveillance, as well as guards at every corridor. Inmates are instructed to face the wall when being passed by a healthcare member. On the other hand I have seen places in which the security leaves much to be desired. You have to evaluate each facility individually before you commit.
3. What is it like working with inmates?
Inmates may at first play sick or give you attitude, but over time if you act respectful towards them they will return the respect. You tend to toughen up after a while and not let the occasional insult bother you. At some points I remember a few new inmates giving me attitude and then they were “taken care of” by the others.
4. Tell me about the salary and benefits.
For those who work directly for the correctional facilities, it’s a government job complete with a pension and low cost health insurance. Another benefit specifically for correctional facility workers is hazard pay. Liability and life insurance are part of the package as well. However, a number of facilities are now outsourcing, which means that they are hiring you through a private company. This circumvents all the benefits that go along with a government job. You really need to find out if you’re being hired directly or through a third party.
If you’re looking for a different experience, then this may be the job for you. Besides for the job experience and the security and benefits of a government position, you’ll also have something unique to show on your resume. All in all, the feeling I got from Nyoka was that a correctional facility can definitely be a viable option for new nurses.