Most nurse practitioners I talk to are understandably hesitant to even consider working in a correctional facility. If they don’t personally have any qualms about taking care of inmates, their significant other is bound to have some hesitation about the opportunity. After all, life as a nurse practitioner working in a correctional facility is often misunderstood (I did just look up the difference between jail and prison).
Accepting a nurse practitioner position in a jail or prison isn’t quite as bad as you might think. While you do have to deal with clearing security every morning and there’s the obvious concern about safety (although you could argue that working in a less secure emergency department is even more dangerous), there are benefits to working in correctional medicine. Here are a few to consider.
1. Give your clinical skills a boost
In one of my first jobs as a nurse practitioner, I worked alongside a physician who picked up weekend shifts in a prison. She would enthrall me with clinical tales. Healthcare providers working in correctional facilities often treat diseases and conditions not seen in your typical family practice set up, like tuberculosis, to name one. Their patients have often had little or no access to medical care. So, they see interesting stuff. Working in a correctional facility will give you plenty of experience treating all kinds of acute and chronic medical conditions.
2. Build a solid foundation for the rest of your career
Correctional facilities are often willing to hire new graduates. In most facilities, as a nurse practitioner you will work alongside other healthcare providers who can support you in your transition from education to practice. This can be a great environment to get exposure to many types of patients and diseases helping you build a wealth of knowledge on which to build your career. Your medical know how will help you market yourself should you choose to move on in the future.
3. Benefits, benefits, benefits
While correctional facilities aren’t known for paying nurse practitioners above market salaries (typically pay is about average), most do offer great benefits. Benefits can equate to a significant financial package. So, before you pass up a position based on a lower than expected salary, evaluate your prospective benefits package to see if you’re getting a better deal than you think.
4. Outsmart the job market
The nurse practitioner job market can be tough for new grads and for NPs looking to work in certain areas of the country. Considering work in a correctional facility expands your job search parameters giving you more options. Why not at least consider interviewing for a correctional opportunity to challenge your preconceived notions, right?
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