Inspired Options are actively seeking UK Nurses with existing Australian Nursing Board registration

Mental Health Prison Nurse

Wednesday, 06 December 2023

7 Day Health Service
A great ideal
Can the Government make it work?

Cortney Smith, BSc (Hons), NCLEX-RN, CCHP


Cortney studied prison nursing in the USA and obtained Certified Correctional Health Professional (CCHP) certification, before arriving in the UK where she completed her BSc (Hons) degree in Mental Health Nursing. She has lived and worked in the UK ever since and has been a prison nurse for 6 years


BSc (Hons) Mental Health Nursing
CCHP - Certified Correctional Health Professional Certificate


1 year medical ward whilst studying for BSc (Hons) degree
6 years Prison Nurse

My Career

I was born in America and studied to become a nurse where I completed my NCLEX-RN and CCHP certificate. Despite being an employable graduate, I struggled to find a job as a nurse in the US. So I thought about what I wanted to do and during my training I was very interested in mental health nursing.

I contacted some hospitals and professionals within the healthcare industry in the UK and found that job prospects were phenomenal but I would have to complete a BSc (Hons) degree first. After moving to England and finishing my BSc (Hons) degree in Mental Health nursing I didn't waste any time applying for Prison Nursing jobs and found myself employed almost straightaway.

What were your first impressions?

My family in America had concerns about me working in a prison because it’s a dangerous and scary place. I think my family thought that there would be these people in their cells and also working with male inmates, as a female, would be especially dangerous.

So of course at first I was very nervous but when you arrive on your first day, you are given an induction into the security process at the prison. As soon as I was inducted I felt safe - you only have to hit the button on your radio and the prison officers are with you immediately. Since working in the prison 6 years ago I haven’t felt threatened in any way.

What do you like most about the job?

I like that my job has its ups and downs. It can be quite challenging sometimes but the job is so rewarding. I have always been interested in making people’s lives easier and this job does so much more than that. Not only am I a shoulder to cry on and someone to confide in, I am also a role model.

You come into contact with people from all walks of life and most of the time you see that they have learnt great life lessons in prison and once they’re ready for release the person they were before entering prison was a completely different individual compared to the prisoner that’s leaving. !

What advice would you offer?

If you’re thinking of going into prison nursing obviously you need to be qualified but I think the main criteria are that you have confidence combined with awareness. You have to be prepared for anything and everything and with this you need to have some relative experience in the field.

I think because of all the different situations and people you come across you need to able to have a good sense of humour as well. A good candidate would be someone that is appreciative of all religions and cultures and isn’t judgemental. Most of all you need to be a great communicator.

What would you have done differently?

I think if I could change anything it would be that I had come over to England sooner. Even though my American qualifications are recognised in the UK, nothing can beat a BSc degree and really getting to grips with the reality of nursing.

Who offered you the best career advice… and did you take it?

The person that offered me the best career advice would have to be a guest lecture on my BSc degree who was a prisoner nurse. She went through the 9 – 5 routine of a prisoner nurse and what situations she has been in, she answered the obvious questions from ‘is it really dangerous?’ to ‘how much do you get paid?’ and it just enticed me even more to further my career in prison nursing.

What have you liked least about your working life?

I think the thing that I have liked least is leaving my family behind in America. Even though we’re in touch every day it’s still quite difficult. But if I hadn’t come over to the UK I wouldn’t have landed my dream job or met my wonderful husband.

What have you enjoyed the most?

The fact that I’m still learning new things about prison nursing every day and I enjoy the challenges that the profession throws at me. I really enjoy the work ethic at the prison I work for and I think the fact that I’m a happy employee rubs off on the prisoners I help.

Favourite websites

Team24 Nursing Jobs
RCN Nursing Communities
Nursing Times

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