Working as a prison nurse is unique. Yes, the care provided remains the same as that provided in more traditional settings such as hospitals or care homes, but the delivery is quite different. Working in a secure environment is unlike any other healthcare setting and can help even the most experienced nurse gain new skills and hone existing ones.
Prison nursing can offer a solid foundation upon which a nurse can build a successful career. The experience and skills which are gained in such an environment can be invaluable, especially for those looking to progress their nursing careers.
So how can you progress your career working as a prison nurse? What are the first steps? And what benefits does agency nursing present?
It’s often said that it takes a special kind of person to become a prison nurse. And while this is a widely held belief, there’s certainly no secret formula. Becoming a prison nurse simply relies on you being a qualified, registered nurse who preferably specialises in adult acute, mental health or learning disability care.
Additional qualities required include excellent communication skills, patience, resilience, compassion and an ability to make decisions and solve problems in a timely and efficient manner.
Once employed in a prison environment, you will be trained on prison-related aspects of your work. These include factors such as safety, security and understanding how the prison service works, particularly in relation to its healthcare facilities.
According to the NHS, working as a prison nurse, you can expect to treat a higher concentration of patients requiring help for mental health and substance misuse problems. This means that it’s 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 via agency work.
Professional development is a huge part of being a first-rate prison nurse. Reading up on new research surrounding these specialised areas is always advantageous, as this can equip you with an even greater knowledge of the symptoms your patients may exhibit and how best to deliver a safe and effective treatment plan.
The beauty of working as an agency nurse in prison is that you have the resources available to develop at a pace that suits you. By being able to rely on the support of your agency, you will be able to take control of your own career, driving it in the direction you most desire.
As a prison agency nurse, you’ll have the freedom to work in an array of different settings, allowing you to find work that appeals to you. And by working alongside a variety of healthcare professionals, you will have plenty of scope to enhance your skills and improve your practice.
There will also be ample opportunity to obtain valuable career advice from both your nursing agency and your fellow healthcare professionals with whom you work with closely.
Furthermore, for nurses who are curious about what to expect from a career in prison nursing, some nursing agencies can arrange shadow days. These specially arranged sessions allow you to gain first-hand experience of what working as a prison nurse is actually like.
Working as a prison nurse is far from a dead-end job. It’s an occupation that opens a myriad of potential pathways that you can explore throughout your career.
Stepping 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. Nurses who go on to progress 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.
Thanks to the partnership between the prison service and the NHS, the amount of work and the number of development opportunities are seemingly endless. This makes it possible to specialise in a range of different areas such as substance misuse or mental health. Also available are transcultural healthcare practice training and healthcare management leadership courses.
A number of other routes include training for more senior nursing roles in prison or as part of a general practice, and more autonomous roles such as those of nurse practitioners and advanced nurse practitioners.
If you are interested in finding out more about the world of prison nursing, why not read more in the prison nursing series?
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