Correctional nursing presents unique challenges, including working within a confined environment; managing diverse health issues that may have been neglected in the community; and navigating security protocols. However, it also offers immense rewards, like making a positive impact on a population that is negatively affected by the social determinants of health, and contributing to positive public health outcomes in the community.
LPN/LVNs in correctional nursing bring valuable skills and expertise to the table. They provide basic patient care, like administering medication, monitoring vital signs, dressing wounds and other nursing interventions under the guidance of RNs or Providers. They assist Providers, conduct health screenings, document health histories, and assist in identifying health concerns among their patients. LPN/LVNs are trained to respond to medical emergencies within the facility and provide immediate care until further assistance arrives. They work closely with RNs, Providers, and other healthcare professionals to ensure continuity of care for their patients.
RNs in correctional nursing have a broader scope of practice than LPN/LVNs and have additional responsibilities based on their training and education. RNs provide comprehensive patient care. They conduct in-depth health assessments, develop nursing care plans, and oversee the implementation of complex medical treatments and procedures for patients. One of their responsibilities may be oversight of the Chronic Disease Program, where they provide ongoing patient care and education in collaboration with the Provider. RNs play a pivotal role in educating incarcerated persons about health-related topics, promoting preventive care, and addressing their patients’ healthcare concerns. RNs are often involved in synthesizing data and use critical thinking skills to make decisions regarding their patient’s health and treatment, triaging emergencies, and collaborating with healthcare and custody staff for optimal care outcomes.
In correctional settings, both LPNs and RNs collaborate closely to deliver comprehensive healthcare services. This collaborative approach ensures that incarcerated individuals receive timely and appropriate healthcare attention. In addition, their roles are essential components of a multidisciplinary team, including our custody colleagues, dedicated to providing healthcare services in correctional facilities. Their distinct scopes of practice complement each other, ensuring that patients receive quality healthcare while incarcerated.