For sure you recall one of those prison movies. A correctional nurse falls in love with an attractive inmate. A few weeks later, without realizing it, she helps her lover escape and he enjoys freedom again–sometimes for a short while before the guards recapture them, and sometimes the movie simply ends, and we do not know the eventual fate of the fugitive…

And though life isn’t a movie, and such stories do rarely happen, one thing remains in tact: also prisoners get sick. They need attention of a healthcare professional, and you can be the one providing such attention in one of the detention facilities around the country. But what will happen in the interview for this job? And what questions will they ask you? We will try find the answers in the article. Let’s start with the questions.


Why do you want to work as a correctional nurse?

You have several options for a good answer. One is saying that you do not have a particular preference for any nursing specialization. You simply want to try different locations and roles during your rotation, to eventually find the right match, and perhaps a field in which you will try to get certified later.

Second option is referring to the specifics of the specialty. You will have more autonomy than a regular nurse, since physicians often won’t be present. You’ll have to make decisions on the spot, and most of the time you’ll be accompanied by correctional officers, anywhere you go within the prison. And, of course, you’ll work with inmates, which poses some additional risks but also an opportunity to perhaps make some positive difference¬†in lives of people not many other care about.

Last option is telling them a story. Maybe you look up to a certain nurse who works in a detention facility, or someone closed to you was detained in prison (not in the one where you apply for the job), and a nurse made a positive difference in their life. Each of these answers is good. Just do not forget to speak with enthusiasm, in order to make sure your answer sounds authentic.

* May also interest you: 7 sample answers to “Why nursing?”


Why do you want to work in this detention facility/ward?

Just do not say that your ex boyfriend is detained at the facility. That would mark the end of your chances to get this job. If you, by any chance, know one of the inmates, in no case should you bring it up in this interview.

Try to focus more on the practical reasons. Maybe you like the location of the prison–you have a good traffic connection to the place, or you like the shift patterns, or perhaps the employee benefits they offer, when compared to other detention facilities in the area.

You can also say that you do not have a preference, and simply want to work as a correctional nurse. Since their place is the only detention facility advertising the vacancy at the moment, you applied with them.


You may have to treat people who committed serious felonies, perhaps even a murder. How do you feel about the proposition?

You should try to show two things at this point. First, a healthy level of respect. It is okay saying that you will definitely be worried in a presence of the inmates. As long as the correctional officers are around–and they always will be, you should manage to administer the treatment to anyone, without being impacted by your fear.

Second thing to demonstrate is a certain form of understanding, doesn’t matter how strange it may sound. Sure, they are criminals, they made their mistakes–sometimes one too many, and they certainly deserve to be where they are. But they are still people, human beings, and are not immune to all sorts of illnesses and diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and so on. And just like everyone else, they have a right for a treatment–at least in your opinion. Hence you do not feel strange saving life of someone who has perhaps taken life of someone else years ago…

What do you consider the most challenging aspect of correctional nursing?

You have a few options again. One is talking about the pressure correctional nurses generally experience, working with inmates, always being watched, having to be extremely careful about what they say, what information they share with their patients.

Second option is talking about specific situations from the job. For example when one of the detainees is faking an illness–or perhaps you aren’t sure if they are. Or when some tries to manipulate you in some way, with nice words, playing games with you. Such things will certainly happen in your practice, and you should ensure the hiring manager that you feel ready to handle them.


Tell us about a time when you had to make a decision without knowing all information you needed.

You may get several behavioral questions in your correctional nurse interview. Hiring managers may inquire about situation specific for the prison environment, such as imagine that an inmate threatens to commit suicide, or that they are trying to fake an illness–what would you do? But they may ask more general behavioral questions also, such as “Tell us about a conflict you had with someone in your last job”, or “Tell us about a time you experienced pressure in work”, or the question about dealing with ambiguity.

Your goal is to ensure them that you can make decisions on your own, and that you do not always need a consultation of an MD or of other healthcare professional. You can talk about a situation when you had to decide on the spot about a diagnosis or treatment of a patient, or about a similar situation from your personal life.

* May also interest you: Nursing interview – What are your strengths and weaknesses?


Manipulative behavior is common among inmates. How do you make sure that you avoid being manipulated in your job?

Ensure the interviewers that you plan to set clear boundaries, and stick to them invariably in your work. Inmates are your patients, but they aren’t, and won’t become, anything more. Neither your friends, nor the objects of your interest–it is just out of question.

In every meeting, you will keep things professional, focusing only your diagnosis and treatment. You won’t let them any room for some speculative behavior, and won’t react to any remarks that have nothing to do with the treatment. You can also say that as soon as you feel that some inmate is trying to manipulate you, you will report their behavior.


Other questions you may face in your interview for a correctional nurse job

  • What steps will you suggest taking in order to control the spread of infectious diseases in prison?
  • Tell us about a conflict you had with someone in your last nursing position–a patient, or a colleague.
  • What motivates you the most in this work?
  • Tell us about the last time you were afraid of something. How did you manage your fear.
  • Describe a typical inmate, from a perspective of a correctional nurse.
  • How do you feel about working at night, or during the weekend?
  • Tell us one thing about yourself you wouldn’t want us to know.


Final thoughts, next steps

Interview for a job of a correctional nurse belongs to interviews with average difficulty. You typically won’t compete with many other applicants for the job, which makes your situation easier.

On the other hand, they will almost always ask you some tricky scenario-based questions, and if you remain silent instead of giving them an answer, they won’t hire you. Read the article once again, and try to write down at least a short answer to each question on my list.

Do not forget to check also other online sources, and read the following articles on Interview Penguin:

Matthew Chulaw
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