NSW Minister for Justice Brad Hazzard wants a national medal to recognise prison officers.

NSW Minister for Justice Brad Hazzard has called for a national medal to recognise distinguished service for corrections officers.

Mr Hazzard said the proposed Australian Corrections Medal would be in line with national honours already awarded to police, fire, ambulance and emergency services.

“[They] manage a significantly damaged population in an environment that is not designed to nurture the human spirit,” he said ahead of an announcement at a national conference in Brisbane on Thursday.

Two officers in NSW have died in the past 20 years, including one who was stabbed with a HIV infected needle, he said.

For Greg Delprado from the Public Service Association, facing challenges like these was just a part of the job.

The union chairman of the Commissioned Officers Vocational Branch regularly copped abuse from inmates in his 30 years as a prison officer.

He said keeping his cool was paramount.

“You still have to provide them with service and food,” Mr Delprado said.

At times he performed CPR on inmates who have attempted suicide, and on other occasions he watched his friends suffer doing their job.

“Seeing some of your best mates getting blindly assaulted … it takes them a lot to get over it,” he told AAP.

“It’s the kind of environment that is not natural.

“Even if you’ve been there only one year it has a profound effect on you.”