Interview with Chris McMahon, RN, BSN
Misguided assumptions about the correctional healthcare environment prevents many clinicians from pursuing the job opportunities that are there. While not the right work environment for every clinician, the correctional healthcare setting can provide a rich and rewarding career for those nurses that are willing to put their preconceived notions to the test. To help combat some of the natural biases that surround the correctional healthcare vocation, we interviewed Chris McMahon, RN, BSN. As an experienced correctional nurse, Chris provides insight into what a typical day looks like in correctional healthcare, the type of care that correctional nurses are generally responsible for and what it takes to succeed in this non-traditional healthcare field.
1. What initially attracted you to a career in nursing?
While I was pursuing my bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, I knew that I wanted to end up in a career where I would have the opportunity to help and care for other people. At the time, I didn’t know that nursing would be the place where I would land. As I was trying to decide on a major that was right for me, I took a very general class about nursing. From there, I was hooked. I had so many amazing teachers along the way that encouraged me. Their enthusiasm for the profession was contagious. I’ve never regretted my choice to become a nurse.
Consider Correctional Healthcare for Your Next Nurse Contract
Correctional healthcare is a hidden gem. If you want to widen your scope of practice as a nurse and you are confident in your assessment skills, this may be a specialty you would enjoy. I would suggest knowing the difference between jails and prisons is essential to understanding which culture is the best fit for you.
Both correctional facilities often treat patients who may not have had access to healthcare or who haven’t wanted treatment. In my experience, jails are short-term and have a revolving door for new and old inmates who need more temporary and short-term care.
A Peek Behind the Bars
With more than 2.2 million people currently incarcerated in our nation’s prison and jail system, there is a growing need for qualified medical professionals that are able to support this undeserved population. While not the right assignment for every nurse, those that choose to pursue a career in this unique healthcare environment will experience a host of benefits not readily available in more traditional healthcare settings. Keep reading to learn more about the advantages of a correctional nursing career and to determine if this career path is the right fit for you.
Correctional nurses are the face of healthcare within the corrections environment. In many cases, they serve as the gatekeeper to physicians and other medical services. From an initial assessment of a patient’s needs to developing a treatment plan (in consultation with a doctor), nurses are the primary (and sometimes only) healthcare provider that patients will have access to for their medical needs. Thus correctional nursing provides clinicians with an opportunity to utilize the full range of their clinical expertise (within a provider’s discretion) to support the health and safety of the inmates.
Correctional Nursing Benefit: Use the full range of your medical knowledge