SAYRE, Okla -- Instead of trudging through long hospital hallways or private family practices, these medical professionals make the rounds through locked gates and prison cells. Licensed practical nurse, Conchita Noyes said, “It’s like herding ants. A lot of running around.”
North Fork Correctional Center is in Sayre, Oklahoma. It’s the county seat of beautiful Beckham Bounty.
The staff here sees approximately 150 inmates on a normal day. Licensed practical nurse, Christine Labrado said, “There is something going on all the time. And then you have those emergencies. If there is a fight, if someone gets sprayed, if somebody gets shanked or stabbed, or just beat up. It’s like being an EMT, triage, ER nurse and working in a doctor’s office all at the same time.”
Like so many state prisons, North Fork needs more nurses to provide the most basic care. Shirley May is the Correctional Health Services Administrator. According to May, “For an inmate population of over 2300, it makes it very difficult to meet the demands. And the requirements to take care of the inmates. “
Prison officials blame the problem on a number of issues, including a false perception that working around felons is dangerous. Registered Nurse Christal Bentley told us, “I feel safer here than I would than I would at an ER at a hospital. Because here I’m surrounded by security at all times. They are a phone call away, a button away. Here, you know who the bad guys are and you know they are not armed.”
The Department of Corrections is exploring new ways to recruit and retain health care staff, promoting a generous benefits package, small town charm and $5000 sign on bonus.
It is a challenging but rewarding career in western Oklahoma. The nurses are the “heartbeat” of the medical team.
Interested applicants can contact Shirley May at North Fork Correctional Center.