Breaking IN to Correctional Healthcare

Breaking IN to Correctional Healthcare

Part One of a Three-Part Series

A career in correctional nursing could challenge your preconceptions.

When asked by others about my career, I typically respond by stating that I am a medical recruiter for correctional and detention facilities. After the initial confusion wears off, I am then faced with numerous questions such as, “What is it like working in a prison and is it safe,” or “I never knew there was a medical department in a prison!” Explaining what I do to those who have never worked in correctional healthcare can be quite challenging.

Prior to starting my corrections career in 2009, I asked some of those same questions. I was hired as a Human Resources Manager for a new prison and was responsible for the recruitment and hiring of more than 400 positions.  The positions involved areas such as security, academic and vocational instructors, faith-based programs, substance abuse and mental health counselors, and multiple other healthcare positions. At that point in my career, I was unaware of the resources available to inmates in support of their rehabilitation, treatment and education.  These were tools that could provide them hope and prepare them to be successful upon release.

In correctional healthcare there are many opportunities to provide a helping hand, but the benefits of that help extend beyond just the recipient. Correctional nurses find this field very gratifying because of the immediate impact they can have on an inmates’ health. Our nurses are able to educate and inspire inmates to make positive changes to their health because for some the treatment received at a facility is the first medical care they have received in some time.  For this reason, inmates are appreciative of the care and have a high respect for the nursing staff.

Correctional nursing is not for everyone, but those that venture into this field discover just how fulfilling it can be and that they could not imagine doing anything else. I recently spoke to some of my nursing colleagues about their experiences.  It was gratifying to hear statements such as, “We work side by side with security to meet our daily medical goals and take care of our patients;” “There’s always a new experience each day and it’s never boring;” and “We’re able to continually learn and enhance our skills and gain new ones that help us in overcoming obstacles.” Hearing this it dawned on me that although the correctional environment is unique, our goal as medical professionals is the same – to provide a high level of patient care to those entrusted to us.

As a medical recruiter in the correctional healthcare industry, I am aware of the challenges we face in finding the right candidate to fill a need. Therefore, I keep the following in mind:

WE start with one person to help make a change, WE treat others as WE want to be treated, WE show kindness and compassion toward others, WE expand on someone’s strengths instead of their weaknesses, WE educate and teach those who crave personal growth and WE celebrate when someone overcomes hardships and finds success.

Correctional healthcare upholds these beliefs by providing a healthy foundation for our inmates and the surrounding community. To correctional medical staff, these characteristics are a way of life “behind the gate.” It’s not about just showing up to get a job done, it’s about fulfilling a purpose and making a difference to those around you!

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