The Ins and Out of Correctional Travel Nursing

Travel nursing can lead nurses down various career paths, providing amazing opportunities along the way—there’s no better option for advancing your career. One travel nursing specialty many may not even recognize is correctional nursing!

Corrections nursing is one of the most unique healthcare industry positions and safer than some nurses think. While most probably never envision a career behind bars, working in this specialty is a rewarding experience that can prepare nurses for tougher patients and environments throughout their travel nursing careers. If correctional travel nursing piques your interest or you’re just curious about what the position entails, here are a few things to know.

Correctional Travel Nursing Definition

Correctional facilities, detention centers, prisons, etc. house people that need medical attention just like the rest of us. Correctional travel nurses help oversee the treatment and healthcare of inmates for acute, chronic, and emergency health conditions. Depending on the specifics of the travel nurse contracts, travel nurses in corrections typically work in an intense, fast-paced environment, so they must be prepared for anything—from traumatic injuries to substance abuse, psychiatric disorders, and infectious diseases. Correctional travel nurses often work with only a few other healthcare professionals with limited supplies, so their assessment skills must be on point.

Skills and Role Responsibilities of Correctional Travel Nurses

Working in a correctional setting means working with a vulnerable and underserved population. Correctional travel nurses will typically see a wide range of illnesses and injuries in inpatient and outpatient settings, including COVID-19-specific units. They’ll require an extra dose of compassion and the ability to look beyond someone’s criminal record to provide the best possible support for every patient. 

However, you must still be strong, alert, and independent, as there is the potential for manipulation in this environment—don’t let your kindness be mistaken for weakness. Other skills corrections travel nurses should have are:

  • Strong assessment skills
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Ability to work well under pressure
  • A thick skin
  • Ability to work autonomously

Emergency room experience or a strong medical-surgical background is also a plus if you want to transition to correctional travel nursing. While procedures can vary from facility to facility, the nurses usually are the first point of contact for inmates needing medical attention. Some responsibilities include:

  • Performing intake exams and initial physical assessments to document chronic health issues, mental health, and substance abuse, especially for new inmates
  • Monitoring patients’ progress and response to treatment for accurate patient medical records
  • Administering proper care for patients during emergencies such as stabbings and heart attacks
  • Maintaining proper protocols and safety procedures as dictated by state and federal governments
  • Ensuring all medical equipment, including needles and scalpels, are stored safely

How To Become A Correctional Travel Nurse

After obtaining an RN, LPN, or APN licensure and passing the NCLEX exam, aspiring corrections travel nurses must establish a solid medical-surgical foundation. Some prisons prefer nursing professionals with a BSN due to the level of care and unique working conditions of prisons. 

Special certifications are not required for this travel nursing specialty, but they are recommended. The National Commission on Correctional Healthcare (NCCHC) offers a Certified Correctional Health Professional designation for eligible RNs. To meet eligibility for the certification, nurses must:

  • Hold a current and active RN license within the U.S., not restricted to a correctional practice setting.
  • Possess the equivalent of two years of full-time practice as an RN.
  • Accumulate 2,000 hours of practice in a correctional environment within the most recent three years.
  • Finish 54 hours of continuing education in nursing within three years. 18 CEUs must be specific to correctional healthcare.

If you’re not keen on working in community jails or private prisons just yet, correctional travel nurses can also find assignments in juvenile facilities and secure group homes for young offenders.

Those who choose to work in this field will have plenty of opportunities to forge a long-term career for themselves, as good correctional travel nurses are always in demand. However, if you would move on to other nursing fields, having clinical experience behind bars shows employers you are well suited for high-pressure situations involving patient care. If you’re ready to find a corrections travel nursing assignment, visit our job board and check out our travel nursing jobs to start today!

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