Gone are the days when physicians in correctional facilities were those with the worst reputations in the field, whether that was due to news reports of substandard education or malpractice and disciplinary issues. Recent focus on prison health care has helped transform an inadequate system of care into a rapidly improving one, though much depends upon the prison's location -- some states have major prison overcrowding, and this means doctors just don't have enough time or resources to treat everyone. Luckily, this isn't the norm.
So how do nurses, physicians' assistants and physicians find themselves practicing in the correctional health care system? "We stumble into this field," explains Dr. Katina Bonaparte, a family medicine physician practicing at the Cook County Jail in Chicago, Ill. Often, the first introduction to correctional health care practice is during an elective medical residency, and that's all it takes for many doctors to find their calling.
"It's a chance to take care of someone who may have never been taken care of by a physician. We change and save patient lives," continues Bonaparte. "I think it gives people a different perspective on how they want to practice medicine."