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MAR 04/2019

Four Myths Surrounding Prison Nursing

Author Template - Amy Reece

In today’s society, certain jobs are lumbered with the weight of negative stereotypes; prison nursing is one such role. Whether it be that the role of a prison nurse is considered too dangerous, the hours too long or that potential recruits require a very specific set of skills in order to succeed, this is a line of work that finds itself drowning in a multitude of misconceptions.

So if these myths are untrue, what is the reality of prison nursing, and is it really a career that you should consider pursuing?

Myth #1: Prison nursing is a dangerous profession

Typically, the safety aspect of becoming a prison nurse is the number one concern for applicants and often acts as a barrier that prevents them from applying for work. Given the negative connotations that are attached to prisons, it is understandable why so many individuals may be apprehensive when it comes to entering the world of prison nursing.

Naturally, the issue of safety is of paramount importance. While it is true that prisons do harbour some violent residents, that doesn’t mean that nurses should fear for their safety when working. Prison employees and agency staff alike, are able to rely on an extensive network of support to prevent the outbreak of violence.

The chances of a nurse being left alone with a prisoner are practically zero, with wardens on hand to accompany residents during healthcare visits. GPs and other health professionals are also available to aid with certain assessments. In cases of extremely volatile patients requiring treatment, risk assessments are carried out and the number of security personnel on hand increases accordingly.

Prison nurse carrying out tests

Myth #2: All prison nurses need a background in mental health

While it is true that previous experience of working in mental health nursing is advantageous for any individual looking to become a prison nurse, it is by no means a requirement. Providing you are a fully qualified registered nurse who is able to demonstrate an ability to work well under pressure and communicate in a strong and confident manner, a role in prison nursing is well within your reach.

However, while previous experience in the mental health sector is not a necessity, it does help to be able to connect with patients who suffer from complex mental health issues, sometimes triggered by the misuse of substances. As a prison nurse, you will need the ability to communicate effectively with patients to discover the route of their problems, meaning that patience, understanding and fantastic interpersonal skills are a must.

Additionally, a background in acute primary care or community nursing may also be beneficial for those planning a career as a prison nurse. Experience of life in critical care nursing can also help, especially as prison nurses are often the first on the scene in times of emergency.

Prison nurse bandaging patient's hand

Myth #3: Prison nurses work unsociable hours

As many nurses will know, theirs is a profession that is far from ideal when it comes to working sociable hours. Very few nurses are afforded the regular nine to five routine that so many outside of the medical profession take for granted. So prison nursing must be the same, right? Not necessarily.

Typically, full-time prison nurses are required to work 37.5 hours per week, however, this figure can vary depending on the role. Some prisons operate dedicated healthcare facilities that run between set hours, allowing nurses the ability to work at regular times each day, while others require both day and night shifts to be covered, meaning nurses will have to be more flexible with their hours.

For those interested in flexible full and part-time prison nursing, agency work can provide an ideal opportunity for nurses to take on shifts that suit their lifestyle.

Prison nurse taking blood from patient

Myth #4: Prison nursing is a dead-end job

This is not true. Prisons nursing is a unique role that can flourish into a highly rewarding career, especially as it requires workers to connect with some of society’s most vulnerable individuals. It is the ideal role in which nurses are able to demonstrate care, compassion, communication and commitment in equal measure, regardless of the situation.

In addition, unlike traditional nursing roles, the duties of a prison nurse can be far more diverse. Prison roles can require staff to carry out a wide range of tasks that would often be dealt with by multiple members of staff in a different clinical setting. This is a fantastic opportunity for any nurse to hone and expand their skills.

The prospects for future development are also impressive, with opportunities in management, education and research all possible pathways. Alternatively, you may wish to specialise in a particular field of nursing with mental health and substance misuse being potential destinations. There is also the option to progress up the prison service ladder with more senior roles widely available.

Find out more

Now that the myths surrounding prison nursing have been dispelled, why not find out more about a potential career as a prison nurse? For more information, visit our Prison Nursing page or contact our dedicated prison nursing team via email: or complete the form below.

Read more in the prison nursing series:

Becoming a Prison Nurse

What to Expect from a Career in Prison Nursing

How to Develop Your Career in Prison Nursing

The Reality of Working as a Mental Health Nurse in Prison

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