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OCT 17/2013

How to Develop Your Career in Prison Healthcare

Providing healthcare within prisons can be very different from working in more traditional settings such as hospitals or care homes. While the environment and patients may offer new challenges it is important to remember that prisoners get the same healthcare and treatment as anyone outside of prison.

Differences include treatments having to be approved by a prison doctor or member of the healthcare team, and while the institutions do not have hospitals some do have in-patient beds.

Most problems will be dealt with by the specialist healthcare team, however in special cases experts will be required to visit the prison or treatment may be sought in an outside hospital.

Specialist support areas include drug or alcohol problems, learning or physical disabilities and whether or not a prisoner has a lifelong condition such as AIDS.

You can be employed by the prison service, a private provider or by the NHS directly, and many people will find that if they are working as a nurse the environment is comparable to a GP surgery, albeit with a more challenging set of patients and conditions.

In prison you can expect a higher concentration of patients needing help for mental health and substance misuse problems, according to the NHS. This means that it is extremely beneficial for you to be trained in these areas or to possess some specialist knowledge or expertise. This could be gained through your career, qualifications, outside learning or locum work.

Reading up on new research surrounding these specialised areas is always valuable, as this can equip you with an even greater knowledge of the symptoms of your patients and how best to deliver a safe and effective treatment plan.

In order to become a prison nurse you will need to be a qualified, registered nurse who preferably specialises in adult, mental health or learning disability care. Once employed in a prison environment you will be trained on prison-related aspects of your work, which includes a focus on safety and security and understanding how the prison service works, especially in relation to its healthcare facilities.

What opportunities for progression are there?

As well as the extensive opportunities for training, professional development is a huge part of being an excellent prison healthcare provider. This includes prison specific training in healthcare manager leadership and vocational qualifications in custodial healthcare and transcultural healthcare practice training.

These qualifications are invaluable in the prison healthcare sector, allowing you to progress up the ranks quickly should you show the necessary aptitude for professional development and excellent quality of care, as well as a good understanding of the prison environment and how it can affect your work.

Moving up the career ladder is actively encouraged and following comprehensive induction programmes available at a local level you can work in a range of prison settings. Candidates who go on to progress well include those who are effective communicators, can lead a team, pursue professional development opportunities and continuous learning and, above all, deliver a high standard of care to all their patients.

Find out more

If you are interested in finding out more about the wide range of prison nursing roles we have to offer, visit: /prison-healthcare-jobs

Read more in the prison nursing series:

Four Myths Surrounding Prison Nursing

Becoming a Prison Nurse

The Reality of Working as a Mental Health Nurse in a Prison

What to Expect From a Career in Prison Nursing

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