Authored by: Debbie Ash, RN, MSN, CCHP – President, Spark Training 

On Monday, Nov. 19, 2018, a gunman shot and killed 3 people at Mercy Hospital Medical Center in Chicago.  While this was an extremely unfortunate and a rare occurrence, episodes of work place violence directed at healthcare professionals do occur. If you have never stepped into a jail or prison, the concept of working in such an environment can seem unsafe, intimidating, and ultimately threatening. The perception that jails are unsafe can be one of the greatest challenges in recruiting for health professionals. What health professionals do not realize is that correctional setting is one of the safest healthcare environments to work in. In fact, workplace violence, especially that of physical violence, in correctional healthcare is much less common when compared to the community setting.

In 2016 the New England Journal of Medicine released a review article on “Working Place Violence Against Healthcare Workers in the United States”. This article reports the highest numbers of workplace assaults in the US occur against healthcare workers. The article also notes that healthcare workers are nearly four times as likely to require time away from work as a result of an injury related to violence. Specifically, 21% required 31 or more days away from work to recover and 19% required 3 to 5 days away from work. So how do we compare?  For 2018, Advanced Correctional Healthcare, Inc. (ACH) has 3 reported incidents of workplace violence out of a potential 1,044 full and part-time employees. That is about a 0.3% occurrence. As for lost time due to injury related to safety events, we ended the year 0%.  

These statistics clearly suggest that working in the jail environment is safe for nurses and healthcare professionals. Unlike other healthcare fields, safety and security is the highest priority in a correctional setting. Perpetual vigilance, escorts to/from patient areas, recorded telephone lines, security cameras, incoming mail checks and body scanners, are a few examples of the processes put in place to ensure safety.

Furthermore, we cannot forget our care teams have the support of amazing officers that have our backs whenever we need them. When a potential nurse or healthcare professional candidate asks about safety in the jail, we are comfortable saying it is not only a safe environment but also a great place to work.

Having worked in numerous nursing fields throughout my nursing career, I can say without hesitation that working in a jail is probably the safest place I have worked as a health care professional.


Published: 28 December 2018.  All materials have been prepared for general information purposes only. The information presented should be treated as guidelines, not rules. The information presented is not intended to establish a standard of medical care and is not a substitute for common sense. The information presented is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current, and is subject to change without notice. Each situation should be addressed on a case-by-case basis.