Iowa struggles to hire enough registered nurses at prisons

Iowa is having trouble hiring enough registered nurses to treat prison inmates, so it’s turning to workers with fewer credentials to fill a gap created in part by more competitive benefits in the private sector.

Some unions representing Iowa nurses argue the staffing shortage will only worsen as the effects of recent changes to the state’s collective bargaining law begin to set in, though state officials say it’s too early to know its impact on hiring.

The Iowa Department of Corrections says a shortage of registered nurses at some clinics within its nine prisons has led the agency to seek more licensed practical nurses. Known as LPNs, they need less health care education and are paid less. They can do similar tasks as registered nurses, but they carry restrictions in their interactions with patients and require more oversight.

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