Prison nurse

Nurses working in prisons provide similar help and support to GP nurses while offering additional support to prisoners with any mental health and substance misuse problems.

You'll work in a unique and diverse environment, often delivering many of the nurse-led services that are provided in the wider community.

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Working life 

Working in a challenging environment like a prison, you’ll deliver compassionate care to patients from diverse cultural backgrounds who are vulnerable and have complex health needs. Your role often varies, allowng you to pick up additional skills and develop your knowledge.

The types of work you may do could include:

  • minor injury and illness
  • end of life/palliative care
  • substance misuse
  • emergency and unscheduled care
  • health assessment
  • mental health
  • nurse consultation clinics
  • safeguarding

As a prison nurse, you could work directly for the NHS or be employed by a private healthcare provider delivering services on behalf of the NHS. Types of prisons you work in include high security, women-only and young offenders. Some prisons have history and are housed in old listed buildings, stately homes and former armed forces bases, while some are new and modern.

You’ll work alongside a multi-disciplinary team including GPs, pharmacy teams, support workers, dentists, podiatrists, physiotherapists, paramedics, psychological professionals, psychiatrists and prison staff.

Entry requirements 

To work as a nurse in a prison you’ll need to be a qualified, registered nurse and hold a current registration with the NMC. Training will be provided to help you adapt to this unique environment. There is no specific qualification required to enable a nurse to work in a prison. Informal visits are encouraged, so contact the relevant healthcare provider for the prison site for further details.

Anyone applying to work within a prison will go through an enhanced prison vetting process. 

Must have skills 

You'll need resilience, patience and communication skills to be a prison nurse. Problem solving, compassion and being able to prioritise are also vital. Conflict management skills and a good knowledge of the criminal justice system and how it relates to the role will also help. 


You will get training on prison-related aspects of your work. Prison-specific training is also available, including healthcare manager leadership training, vocational qualifications in custodial healthcare and transcultural healthcare practice training. Comprehensive induction programmes are usually available  through your employer.

Career development

The partnership between the prison service and the NHS often means that work and development opportunities are available to you in both organisations at the same time. There are several routes for prison nurses to further their careers. These include opportunities in management, education and research. You may want to specialise in a specific area of prison nursing such as mental health or substance misuse. You could also move into more senior roles within the prison service or GP practices. 

Pay and conditions

If employed by the NHS directly, your standard working week will be around 37.5 hours if you are employed by the NHS and paid on the Agenda for Change (AFC) pay system, typically starting at band 5. 

You’ll also have access to our generous pension scheme and health service discounts, as well as at least 27 days of annual leave plus bank holidays.

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