How to Prepare for a Correctional Nursing Interview

by meaghanhoadley on July 9, 2024 in Career Development, Travel Nursing


You’re in the market for a new job and find the idea of correctional nursing interesting. You’ve applied to a position at a facility near you and have been invited to an in-person interview. Panic sets in! How do you prepare for a correctional nursing interview?

There’s no need to fret – we’ve got you covered. Keep reading to find out what you should do prior to the interview; what questions you can expect during the interview, and what question you should be asking the interviewer.

Before the Interview


Research the Facility

Prior to your correctional nursing interview, take the time to research the facility. A quick internet search can provide insight into the facility’s inmate population (e.g., age, gender, risk level), history, capacity, staffing ratios, expansion plans, etc. Also, check to see if the facility is accredited by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) or the American Correctional Association (ACA). These independent organizations function in a similar manner to Joint Commission for hospitals. Their seal of approval is indicative of established/successful clinicial processes and practices.

Dress for Success

“What does one wear to a correctional nursing interview?” you ask.

Well, you only get one chance to make a good first impression. For that reason, be sure to wear something professional. Nice slacks, button-down tops, blouses, etc. are all great choices. Your outfit should neither be over or under-done. Think business casual.

Furthermore, your interview will likely include a facility tour. For this reason, be sure to wear comfortable shoes that you can walk in. Avoid any footwear that is open-toed. Additionally, women may feel more comfortable wearing something that is conservative/modest as it discourages catcalls and leering from male inmates.

Facility Tour

Touring a correctional facility can be unsettling for those who have never done it before. However, you can’t let your nerves get the best of you.

During the tour, correctional officers and other facility staff will accompany you. You will be completely safe. The facility would not offer a tour if it put your safety or the safety of their staff at risk.

While you’re touring the facility, take note of how many correctional officers are present. Look to see what the temperaments of the inmates are like. Ask yourself if you feel safe and if you can see yourself working there. If you feel a great amount of angst, be honest with yourself and the interviewer. The facility and the inmates deserve a clinician who can deliver care with confidence.

Correctional Nursing Interview Questions You May Be Asked


1. Why do you want to work as a correctional nurse?

It’s highly likely that you will get asked this question (or some variation of it) during your correctional nursing interview. Don’t get caught off guard and stumble through an answer. Take the time to prepare an authentic and enthusiastic response in advance.

Exceptional responses to this question may hit on some (or all) of the following points:

  • While correctional nurses work under the supervision of a physician, the practice setting allows for a great amount of autonomy. In essence, the position is an opportunity to use your education, training and nursing license to the fullest extent possible.
  • As the primary healthcare contact within the facility, correctional nurses assess and treat a variety of conditions. This position will give you the opportunity to expand and enhance your knowledge and skill set.
  • Correctional nurses work with one of our nation’s most underserved populations. As a nurse, you have a desire to work where you are needed most and to make a positive impact on the lives of others.

2. How do you feel about providing care for incarcerated individuals?

Correctional nursing isn’t the right specialty for every nurse. That’s why you need to have an honest conversation with yourself before you even apply. Ask yourself if you can truly set aside your emotions and opinions about the inmates and provide an exceptional level of care.

If you feel certain that you can do that, you’ll be a good fit for correctional nursing.

If the interviewer asks this question, be sure to have a positive response ready. You may want to use the following sample to guide your answer:

“As a healthcare provider, I believe that we have an obligation to care for our society’s vulnerable populations. This includes incarcerated individuals. If offered this position, I would see it as my duty to provide the inmates with the same level of care offered in traditional healthcare settings. I would make sure to leave my opinions and feelings about what the inmates have done at the door.”

3. How has your education and experience prepared you for a career as a correctional nurse?

Correctional nurses are the face of healthcare within the corrections environment. While they always work under the supervision of a physician, the correctional nurse is the first person an inmate sees when they need medical attention.

Because they are the first point of contact, correctional nurses need to be comfortable and confident working in an environment that’s constantly changing. For example, in one day, they may see a patient with dermatology issues, attend to a patient with an ear infection, and collect blood samples for laboratory analysis.

Your answer to this question should communicate your ability to work in a fast-paced environment. Don’t shy away from providing specific examples that demonstrate your ability to quickly pivot. The interviewer wants to know you are not easily addled.

Additionally, inmates are disproportionately likely to have chronic health problems (e.g., diabetes, high blood pressure, substance abuse, mental health issues). If you have any experience treating patients with these conditions, be sure to mention it.

4. What would you do if you found an unresponsive inmate?

Your foremost priority as a correctional nurse is safety. Your safety. Your colleagues’ safety. The inmates’ safety.

For that reason, you should NEVER rush to assist an unresponsive inmate. While this is contrary to your caregiver instincts and how nurses behave in typical healthcare settings, rushing to help could have dire consequences for you and others.

If you happen upon an unresponsive inmate, your first response should be to summon the help of correctional officers. They will survey the scene and indicate when it is safe to provide care. Once given the “all clear,” you would perform all the standard emergency medical assessments and procedures that you would do in any other care environment.

Correctional officers will stay with you throughout the ordeal. They will guard you as you provide care and if needed, assist in moving the inmate to a different location. Never put yourself in a situation where you are alone with an inmate.

5. Inmates may try to manipulate you. How would you avoid this?

During your correctional nursing interview, a question or two about manipulative inmate behavior is bound to come up.

The best way to prepare to answer this question successfully is by reading up on the topic. To that end, we recommend the following five resources. They offer great insights on identifying and appropriately responding to manipulative behavior.

While we strongly encourage you to research this topic prior to your interview, winning answers will hit on the following key points:

  • Do not become personally involved with the inmates.
  • Do not discuss any topics with inmates that are not directly related to their healthcare.
  • Do not perform even the smallest extra activity for an inmate.
  • Do not allow inmates to perform any favors for you.
  • Treat all inmates with respect and dignity.
  • Maintain a professional distance, both physically and emotionally.
  • Address manipulative behavior. If it persists, immediately notify your supervisor.

6. How do you handle pressure?

All nursing specialties entail a certain amount of pressure. However, correctional nursing can be especially stressful. Between the heightened security protocols and the need to be vigilant in observing your surroundings, correctional nursing demands your “A game” every shift.

In asking this question, the interviewer is trying to assess two things. First and foremost, they want to see that you have a firm grasp on how stress affects you. Second, they want to know that you have the skills to appropriately address challenging situations.

When you answer this question, be sure to highlight a specific instance when you faced a high amount of pressure on the job. Describe what you did (both professionally and personally) to alleviate your stress. Ultimately, the interviewer wants to know if the position is a good fit for you, and that you’re not going to quit at the first bump in the road.

7. How comfortable are you with providing patient education?

As a correctional nurse, providing patient education is one of the most important things that you will do. Therefore, it is imperative that you demonstrate your enthusiasm for this aspect of the job.

However, beyond conveying your excitement, you will also need to highlight how you would provide patient education in this unique healthcare setting. For instance, many inmates struggle with reading comprehension or may not be able to read at all. In this case, the use of written materials would be an ineffective teaching method.

If you’re faced with this type of question, you will want to mention the teach-back method, where the patient is asked to repeat what they have learned in their own words. Doing this ensures maximum comprehension. Furthermore, you will also want to explain that you would ask follow-up questions during subsequent encounters with the patient to ensure retention. Let the interviewer know that you understand the relationship between repetition and success.

Questions You Should Ask


When the interviewer finishes asking their questions, they will most likely ask if you have any questions for them.

Under no circumstances should you ever say “no.” Saying “no” communicates a lack of interest in the position.

Additionally, if this is your first in-person interview with the facility, refrain from asking any questions about compensation or benefits. Asking these types of questions too early in the hiring process gives the impression that you only care about money and that you are not genuinely interested in the opportunity. Save compensation questions for the second or third interview.

Instead, come prepared with a list of job-specific questions that you’d like the answers to. Doing so will communicate your sincere interest in the position. Sample questions could include:

  • What are the next steps in the hiring process?
  • What does the onboarding and training process entail?
  • What measures are taken to ensure staff safety?
  • Can you tell me more about the structure of the facility’s care team?
  • Who would I report to?
  • What medical resources are available onsite?
  • Can you share more about the day-to-day responsibilities of this role?
  • What is the most common health problem facing the facility’s inmate population?
  • What characteristics does a person need to succeed in this position?
  • Do you have any concerns about my experience or skill set?

Furthermore, be sure to come prepared with any questions that the job description/posting raises. Remember, this is your opportunity to get details and clarification. You should leave the interview feeling like you have all the information you need to make an informed decision.

When it comes to succeeding at a correctional nursing interview, preparation is key. The time you invest in preparing thoughtful responses will yield dividends as you navigate the hiring process.

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