Correctional Nurse: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a correctional nurse. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about the training, job duties and licensing to find out if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

Correctional nursing involves treating incarcerated patients held in facilities like prisons, halfway houses and juvenile detention centers. A correctional nurse must complete either an approved nursing education program before passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to receive a license as either a registered nurse (RN) or licensed practical nurse (LPN). Employers may prefer candidates with voluntary CCHP (Certified Correctional Health Professional) certification through the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC).

Required Education Certificate, diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree in nursing
Additional Requirements RN (registered nurse) or LPN (licensed practical nurse) license
Certification Optional Certified Correctional Health Professional certification available
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 19% for registered nurses
25% for licensed practical nurses
Median Salary (2013)* $66,220 for registered nurses
$41,920 for licensed practical nurses

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Operating within the confines of various imprisonment facilities, correctional nurses perform many of the same tasks as nursing professionals who work in traditional medical establishments. They aim to provide adequate health care by assessing, diagnosing and treating inmates. Correctional nurses may have more independence than other nursing specialists since the work environment leads to a smaller staff. Accessibility to fewer supplies also encourages correctional nurses to hone their assessment skills.

Job Duties

Correctional nurses get assigned a variety of tasks, starting with maintaining proper safety procedures. Their duties include properly monitoring medical supplies, like needles and medication. In order to maximize overall safety, correctional nurses learn to limit the use of potentially dangerous materials, like scalpels and intravenous drips. Aside from an emphasis on the safety of medical professionals, the work of correctional nurses mirrors that of RNs and LPNs. They carefully monitor patients' progress and responses to medical treatments, as well as administer medication and maintain disease clinics. Correctional nurses also properly document patient medical histories.


Correctional nurses require formal education and training. Students can finish all necessary requirements in 1-4 years, depending on the specific route they select.

Education Information

Numerous education paths can lead to employment as a correctional nurse. Students can choose to complete an undergraduate program in nursing from a vocational training program or accredited college. Registered nurses must have an associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing. Licensed practical nurses need to complete a training program approved by the state, which community or junior colleges typically offer. Clinical practice must be part of any curriculum to qualify for the nursing exam.

Certification Information

All aspiring nurses have to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Two versions of the NCLEX exist, including one for registered nurses (RNs) and one for licensed practical nurses (LPNs). The State Boards of Nursing administer both exams, and the eligibility requirements vary by state.

Correctional nurses can enhance their employment prospects by receiving optional certification from the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) ( Becoming a Certified Correctional Health Professional (CCHP) requires passing an exam. Renewal occurs every year by completing continuing education activities.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides the job outlook for correctional nurses under both registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs). Jobs for RNs are predicted to increase by 19% from 2012-2022, while jobs for LPNs are predicted to increase by 25% in the same time period. The median annual wages in May 2013 were $66,220 for RNs and $41,920 for LPNs, according to the BLS.

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