Temporary Measure Should Help with Recruitment, Retention at Prisons
On Wednesday, the Executive Council unanimously voted in favor of a wage enhancement for nurses working for the Department of Corrections. The 15 percent enhancement is effective immediately and continues through Jan. 17, 2019. Similar wage enhancements have been put in place for nursing staff at New Hampshire Hospital and the New Hampshire Veterans Home.
Nursing is an in-demand profession, which makes it tough to fill positions. Making things tougher is the fact that a prison is far from a traditional environment. Ryan Landry, SEA Chapter 33 member and nursing coordinator at the State Prison in Concord, said the enhancement is purely a market adjustment.
“In my mind it’s important to keep up with the market,” he said. “Nurses can work anywhere. To get them to choose to work in a very challenging environment, you have to make it competitive.”
Landry said the prison in Concord is currently down two nurses (out of 14), but the prison in Berlin is having an even harder time staffing up, with four or five vacancies. Even fully staffed, Landry said, they’re running short at the State Prison, with 14 nurses for 1,700 prisoners. The nursing staff is part of what Landry best describes as a mini-doctor’s office.
“We do everything from medicine and insulin administration to handling medical emergencies,” he said. “What we do is pretty broad.”
That the patients are all prisoners makes it difficult not only to recruit nurses, Landry said, but to retain them, as well.
“If you worked in a hospital or a nursing home, you get to have personal relationships with your patients, and that doesn’t happen in a prison,” he said. “We work with challenging clients, and they challenge us every single day. This isn’t your grandmother we’re taking care of here, but someone needs to care for them.”