According to Community Oriented Correctional Health Services, jails receive 13 million admissions each year, and “many of these individuals experience serious medical and mental health problems. Half of jail inmates and prisoners have a chronic health condition. Nearly two-thirds of jail inmates meet clinical criteria for substance abuse or dependence, and more than 40 percent have a history of a mental health problem.” Coupled with the fact that incarceration exacerbates mental health issues for many, the importance of quality correctional healthcare cannot be underestimated.

The National Institute of Corrections continues, saying “many health problems that plague our society plague the corrections industry at an even greater rate; increasing demand for healthcare services for the mentally ill, substance abuse, suicide prevention, and care for the elderly to name a few are placing greater demands on an already overworked system.”

With the correctional industry in dire need of healthcare professionals, an examination of the challenges facing correctional healthcare recruiters and employees is necessary. Below, take a look at what specific challenges recruiters face when staffing healthcare professionals in a correctional facility, and what can be done to mitigate the issue.

What Positions are Needed in Correctional Healthcare?

As the National Institute of Corrections mentions, health problems that occur in society are the same health problems that occur in correctional institutions. For this reason, correctional healthcare requires multidisciplinary teams of individuals.

California Correctional Health Services (CCHCS) is an organization whose mission, according to their website, provides correctional healthcare that includes medical, dental, and mental health services to all of California’s incarcerated individuals statewide.

Like every other correctional healthcare system in the country, the goal of all healthcare professionals working with the CCHCS as stated on the organization’s website is to “enhance public safety and promote successful community reintegration through education, treatment, and active participation in rehabilitative and restorative justice programs.”

Correctional healthcare systems require a large network of nurses, primary care providers, dentists, mental health professionals, medical assistants, and other staff required in any other healthcare setting.

Why is it Hard to Find Correctional Healthcare Recruiters?

As many recruiters know, finding qualified and willing healthcare workers for placement in the correctional healthcare system is not an easy task. Many factors influence this difficulty, perhaps not least is the stigma associated with the correctional industry.

  • Personal Factors: Aside from the potential stigma attached to the correctional industry, one of the most frequent concerns healthcare workers express regarding working in the correctional industry is a fear for their safety. Caring for individuals who may be mentally ill, violent, or have substance use problems can be difficult in any setting, but the fear for safety is increased when these individuals are already incarcerated.
  • Location Factors: In many areas of the country, correctional institutions are located in more remote areas. If a significant commute is required for daily work, it can be a deterrent to attracting talent.
  • Economical Factors: It would be great for recruiters if the answer to these challenges was a simple increase in wages. However, many systems in the correctional industry are severely limited by budgetary constraints. As funding for correctional institutions decreases, so does the allocated budget for healthcare professionals. With provider shortages in many disciplines across the nation, specifically mental health, and the availability of positions in more desirable settings (urban areas with greater infrastructure than many of the remote locations where institutions are located) finding qualified professionals for correctional healthcare becomes increasingly difficult.

How Can Recruiters Attract Correctional Healthcare Candidates?

According to the National Institute of Corrections, multiple organizations are working to improve correctional healthcare and the positions available within these systems.

The National Commission on Correctional Health Care is one such organization. As stated on the NCCHC website, this organization’s mission “is to improve the quality of health care in jails, prisons, and juvenile confinement facilities.” To achieve this, the NCCHC establishes standards for health services, conducts educational conferences, and offers certifications for correctional health professionals. Health, mental health, law, and corrections all have major national organizations working with the NCCHC “to create a robust, multidisciplinary governing structure that reflects the complexities of correctional healthcare.”

Organizations like the NCCHC and the Community Oriented Correctional Health Services can be helpful resources in attracting talent to correctional healthcare. Previous measures like increasing salaries for correctional healthcare workers were met with success, but there must be more.

One of the most effective tools a recruiter can use is education. It’s important for prospective correctional healthcare workers to fully understand the position and environment for which they are applying. There are a number of resources available for educational purposes and working with the greater healthcare community is an invaluable tool when it comes to correctional healthcare placement.

While correctional healthcare is a challenging vocation, it’s also one that is incredibly rewarding for dedicated workers. Personal satisfaction in helping those who desperately need it is just one of the benefits correctional healthcare workers receive from their positions. In addition to being a satisfying career that gives individuals a strong sense of purpose, correctional healthcare can be very financially rewarding for registry workers.