Nursing Instructor Nicole Walker Inspired to Achieve CCHP-A - National Commission on Correctional Health Care
Nicole Walker 680x510 2Jan 5, 2023

Nursing Instructor Nicole Walker Inspired to Achieve CCHP-A

Nicole Walker, MSN, RN, CCHP-A, has joined the elite group of correctional health professionals who have earned advanced certification as a CCHP-A. She is a nursing instructor at Bryant and Stratton College and Concordia University in Wisconsin and also works as a registered nurse with Advanced Correctional Healthcare.

Walker first became certified as a CCHP in 2018 at the urging of her manager and mentor, NCCHC board member Mary Muse, MSN, RN, CCHP-RN, CCHP-A, chief nursing officer for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. “As Mary shared her love of correctional nursing with me, she also shared what NCCHC and the CCHP program are all about,” says Walker. “Mary saw potential in me that I did not see. She inspired me to delve more deeply into correctional nursing as my nursing specialty.”

It was through that deeper dive that Walker says she “fell in love” with correctional nursing. She explains that while nursing certification is available in many nursing specialties, this was the first time in her career she felt a call to become certified.

“As a nurse I have always enjoyed caring for vulnerable populations,” she says. “Patients who enter the criminal justice system are among the most vulnerable. Overall, society wants to ‘forget’ these men and women. Being able to show them that they are worthy of care and have inherent dignity as human beings is such a privilege. As my patients come to realize they deserve to receive care just like any other patients, I have the privilege of seeing their souls come alive.”

As a nursing instructor Walker tries to spread the word by incorporating examples from correctional nursing into her lectures and clinicals as much as possible. “I genuinely enjoy sharing my experiences as a correctional nurse, both professionally and personally with friends and family. Certification gives me professional credibility and validates that I have expert knowledge in the field – I know what I’m talking about,” she says.

“I chose to pursue advanced certification to further validate that knowledge and to demonstrate that I possess a high level of clinical competence. Correctional nurses practice ‘at the top of their licenses,’ meaning we practice very independently. Advanced certification provides validation that we possess the skills and knowledge to practice at that level.”

Unlike the multiple-choice CCHP test, the CCHP-A exam is essay format, requiring more time to prepare and more time to complete. To prepare for the four-hour exam, Walker reviewed the NCCHC Standards, the Federal Bureau of Prisons standards of care, and her institution’s policies and procedures in order to have relevant examples for the essays. She says she was “definitely nervous” beforehand, having not taken an essay exam since she was an undergraduate.

Despite that, she enourages anyone who is considering pursuing certification to do so.  

What’s next for Walker? “As I continue to build my career within academics, my goal is to take advantage of opportunities to continue to build research and knowledge specific to correctional nursing, including applying specific nursing theories to correctional nursing.”

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