Working as an RN in California Prison

  1. I am a Canadian graduated female RN currently working at Kaiser system. I have been thinking of working in the California prison ie Chino California Institution for Men....I never worked in a prison before. I did work in forensic psych hospital in Alberta Canada. Every one that I know are telling me about the negative aspects of working in a prison! But the pay is very attractive. Can anyone be able to tell me more about working in a prison system?? Is it really really dangerous for a female to work there?? How about the work load...is it very heavy like a regular med/surg floor in a regular hospital? How does the kaiser system and prison system compare in regards to pay and work load? Any info will be greatly appriciated
    Thanks
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  2. 14 Comments

  3. by   Lucid Vital Nurse
    Hi Shantas. I am a LVN and I am a Contract Nurse for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation at California Correctional Institution For Men (a level 4 Prison with SHU). I know the jobs of the RN's and LVN's inside and out. The nurses for the CDCR are payed very well and the benefits are great and the work is not overloading; although sometimes it can be very busy, as I have worked all the yards and am now in the Infirmary. SEIU 1000 is the Union for all of the non-custody staff and they take care of issues rather quickly from what I've seen. The title for RN is Registered Nurse, CF /(Correctional Facility). The pay for RN's start around $7300/month (I think I'm off (short) by a few hundred dollars). The positions for RN are: Urgent/Emergent Nurse, Utility Nurse, Face-to-Face Nurse, Infirmary Nurse, R&R Nurse (Receiving and Release), TTA Nurse (Treatment and Triage Area), First Responder/Clinic Nurse, Rover, Public Health Nurse, Infection Control Nurse, Staff Development Nurse, Tele-Med Nurse/Specialty Clinics Nurses; (if Chino has a medical facility, then there will be more positions available). The Supervisor positions for RN (you'll need to apply or bid into one of these positions, if they are open: Supervising Registered Nurse II (SRN II), Supervising Registered Nurse III (SRN III/Director of Nurses). The pay for SRN II starts at about 8300 or 8500/month and the pay for SRN III starts around 9200 and tops out around $10,200/month. (Again, these figures are [close] estimates and the positions have to be bid into/applied for). The RN's in these positions either work in the clinics and see the inmates as scheduled (Face-to-Face), on an urgent or emergent basis, or resopnd to emergency calls from Custody staff, Vocational Nursing staff, etc (as a Rover/TTA Nurse), on any of the yards on 3rd or 1st watch. You may or may not have to do Pill Line, Doctor's Line/Sick Call/First Responder depending on adequate LVN staff. There are also Psychiatric Registered Nurses, but they don't get paid as much as the other postions I've said. There are three watches: First Watch: 2200-0600/Second Watch: 0600-1400/Third Watch: 1400-2200. However, the majority of shifts for RN's can also be 10 and 12 hour shifts. You can also be a mandatory hold over, in which you can not refuse to be held over unless it is the next nurses' turn to be held over; (This usually happens if they are short nurses of there is a riot, etc). If you were recently held over and it's not your turn or you have a crisis of your own, then you can refuse to stay. As far as the inmates, they don't bother me now, although when I first started last March it was nerve racking to say the least. I think that they don't bother me too much because I'm a male nurse; however, I have had my fair share of sexual comments said to me and to female nurses. I have never seen a nurse assaulted ever since I've been there. They don't want to cause a problem with medical because you have something you can give them..medical help. And if they become inappropriate, there is recourse. The inmates are however, very, very manipulative...you have to train yourself to see past the garbage that they say or act...I get inmates who fake seizures, etc. Sometimes the custody staff can be hard to work with, but for the most part they are great. Just understand that the majority of the inmates come from poor backgrounds, broken homes and have little education, but are street smart; they often use ploys to get attention. All the first term inmates that have never been to prison will have issues. There are also a lot of Psych inmates. I have never been afraid for my safety; neither have any of the other (male or female) nurses that I have come into contact with. You need good people skills, judgement skills, patience, little tolerance to crappy behavior, tact. At first it might make you a little nervous, but don't let the comments/small stuff get to you. As a nurse once told me, "You get to go home at the end of the day. They don't. You are just entertainment to them..So don't let them bother you...don't let them mess with your paycheck (implying not to let the inmates run me off and leave the prison and my fat paycheck)". I have also learned quite a few new skills at the prison and have been able to apply my ER and Telemetry experiences from the hospital that I worked before. You can also have the Department of Motor Vehicles place a block on your license so no one can access your information, if you so desire....just go to the Personell Dept at Chino State Prison..they can help. You also have officers around when you are dealing with inmates as well as you carry a whistle and alarm and have a stab resistant vest which offers some protection. So, I hope this info helps... I tried to tell you both the good and bad points so you have somewhat of an accurate picture to go on. I really enjoy it though! Some days can be hard at the prison, but anywhere you go in nursing will have it's good and bad days...just give it a try, ok. And even if you only work there for 6 months, it will have been a new experience/knowlege gained as well as you can save a load of money. I wish you the best. Sincerely, Jules LVN
  4. by   Shantas
    Jules:
    Thank you so much for giving me all these info I work in a med/surg floor in a Kaiser hospital. I like my unit, but the pay is not as good as the correction! So I thought I would try out some thing different! I do have psych experience, I also worked in a forensic unit in Canada, so I thought I might be able to handle the job at the prison!!
    I dont know anything about the Chino facility. All I read in the website is that it has both maximum and medium scurity inmates.
    What do you mean by working at the "yards"? Also do the officers always stay with you when you are dealing with an inmate? Do you have to go to the inmates cell/room when they need treatment or they come to you at the clinic? Also do you have to learn how to use a gun??
    I know these questions are bit silly but I just want to make sure this is really what I want to do and feel comfortable with doing before I send that letter back to them indicating my intention!!
    Thanks again
  5. by   Lucid Vital Nurse
    There is also an RN Position for scheduling (I think it's [UMRN] Utilization Management Registered Nurse). They schedule offsite inmate medical appointments, surgeries/procedures and keep track of community hospital admissions.:spin:
    Last edit by Lucid Vital Nurse on Nov 23, '07 : Reason: gramatical errors
  6. by   Lucid Vital Nurse
    Shantas, I'm glad I could be of some help. In answer to your questions:
    1. regarding the yard: I work for a prison broken up into 4 seperate yards (Level 1 to Level IVB, (the SHU yard/Security Housing Unit). A. Level I: Minimum Security Yard B. Level II: Medium Security C. Level III (which is split in half. One half is Level III the other half is a Reception Yard [where the inmates come from the County Jails]) D. Level IVA: Maximum Security E. Level IVB: which contains the Infirmary and SHU which is greater than Maximum Security. The SHU is where inmates go if they have assaulted staff (nurses, Correctional Officers, etc), murdered another inmate or staff, or were high profile felons in the community or inmates with a lot of points. There are only 4 prisons in the state that have a SHU.
    Levels: II, IVA and IVB also have Ad-Seg Units [ASU] (Administrative Segregation) where inmates are placed after assaults on other inmates, participating in riots, inappropriate behavior towards staff etc.
    The inmates are on a point system...The more points they have against them, the higher the level/yard that they will be on. After a while without any problems, the inmate's points drops and they can be transferred to a lower level yard. Also, after an inmate is processed from Reception yard, then they will go to the yard according to the points they have. I don't know how Chino is set up, though. There are also clinics, ER Rooms, R&R and Pill Lines on every level. The procedures differ on treating inmates on the upper (higher yards). Just always think "safety first". It is paramount! Also, when I treat inmates, do not let them know what city you live in or any type of personal information about yourself, where you are from or your family...They will try to get you to give them that info. Let them know that, that is NOT appropriate and you can write them a CDC 115 for "Overfamiliarity" (A "CDC 115" ia an inmate write-up that can give them more prison time in Ad-Seg). And if other staff want to tell you what a particular inmate has done, just tell them that you are not interested..trust me, you do not want to know what some of these inmates have done. Not to mention, it may make you think twice about how you care for them.
    2. And yes, there is supposed to be officers with you and the inmates at all times that you are treating them. If not, insist that an officer be present before you allow that inmate in the treatment area. Sometimes you have to go to their Housing Units to treat them; again, there are officers there. You will get calls of inmates having chest pain, seizures, stabbings, falling out and a "Man Down" will be called. You and/or a Licensed Vocational Nurse will have to respond.
    3. No, they don't train you to use a gun. But they are supposed to train you on the radio system.
    4. Make sure you go to IST Training. There you will learn about inmates and the kinds of weapons that they make from the simplist objects, including toilet paper....Again, THINK SAFETY FIRST before anything else, even before treating inmates.
    I hope I answered you questions thoroughly. Let me know if you have more. :spin: -Jules
  7. by   Shantas
    Again thanks for the info....this is really interesting How many patients/inmates do you take care?? How many nurses are there per shift and in each yard?? Which yard do you think is good for a new comer like me? I have read in another posting where you mentioned that you went through this company...is it better to go through an agency or is it better to get the job directly from the state??
    Perhaps I should apply for per-diem, just so that I can try it out first and if I am too scared to work there then I can quit
  8. by   Lucid Vital Nurse
    Also, in the Infirmary, I have up to 15 patient/inmates (8 medical patients and 7 psych patients). As the cClinic Nurse/First Responder, I had to do 14 diabetic shots and would care for inmates if the officers called for a Medical Emergency/Man Down/or Inmate c/o something or new onset problem, or the MD wanted me to check BP's, Accu Checks, DressingChages, etc. Usually I was with the Urgent/Emergent Nurse from 1400 to 1800 then she went home and I was by myself until 2200. If there was a complex case or I needed help, or I needed an RN for protocols, then I would call for the TTA Nurse to come back me up or take over. The MD Line docs see up to 12 patients in one day, but that's pushing it! The Face-to-Face and Urgent/Emergent would probably see about the same number of patients as MD Line..maybe more or maybe less (also depends on critical emergencies that arise with inmates ie: Seizures or Mass Casualties (riots), or if nursing staff is short in critical areas. By the by, here is Solvere (my agencies number) 1.800.451.4261. Speak with Christy Silverman or Grace Boss. They also pay RN's well (LVN's, too).
    Last edit by Lucid Vital Nurse on Nov 16, '07
  9. by   Shantas
    Quote from Lucid Vital Nurse
    Also, in the Infirmary, I have up to 15 patient/inmates (8 medical patients and 7 psych patients). As the cClinic Nurse/First Responder, I had to do 14 diabetic shots and would care for inmates if the officers called for a Medical Emergency/Man Down/or Inmate c/o something or new onset problem, or the MD wanted me to check BP's, Accu Checks, DressingChages, etc. Usually I was with the Urgent/Emergent Nurse from 1400 to 1800 then she went home and I was by myself until 2200. If there was a complex case or I needed help, or I needed an RN for protocols, then I would call for the TTA Nurse to come back me up or take over. The MD Line docs see up to 12 patients in one day, but that's pushing it! The Face-to-Face and Urgent/Emergent would probably see about the same number of patients as MD Line..maybe more or maybe less (also depends on critical emergencies that arise with inmates ie: Seizures or Mass Casualties (riots), or if nursing staff is short in critical areas. By the by, here is Solvere (my agencies number) 1.800.451.4261. Speak with Christy Silverman or Grace Boss. They also pay RN's well (LVN's, too).
    Thank you for your help. I think I will just call Chino facility and ask them more about the position. I suppose safety wise its all about how you present yourself infront of the inmates. Even in the med/surg floor where I work once in a while we get yelled at and named called. not to mention all the kicking and hitting you get from the confused patients! You just have to develop a tough skin! The pay is just unbeatable. My friends and I are calculated we will have to work another 25 years before we will get that much of a salary in the hospital where we work
    So now that you work through an agency do you still get all the benefits that a state employee enjoys? I was told the state employees get 14 paid holidays. The only thing I think I dont like (apart from the safety concern) is the mandatory overtime. I suppose you cant have it all....anyway thanks again.....I will have to convince my husband....he does not think I will be able to handle the inmates
  10. by   Lucid Vital Nurse
    I wish you the best of luck! I think you'll like Correctional Nursing and all the benefits associated with being a Civil Servant/State Nurse! Let me know how it turns out for you down the road....Jules :spin:

    PS: Keep Solvere's number, though. It may come in handy at some point.
  11. by   Shantas
    Quote from Lucid Vital Nurse
    I wish you the best of luck! I think you'll like Correctional Nursing and all the benefits associated with being a Civil Servant/State Nurse! Let me know how it turns out for you down the road....Jules :spin:

    PS: Keep Solvere's number, though. It may come in handy at some point.
    Thanks again I called Chino today. They told me they do have a hospital inside and the inmates are maximum security inmates and the RN will be dealing with the inmates. I am just thinking may be its a infirmary position. I will keep you guys posted
  12. by   mabton8
    I will be graduating June 2009 as an ADN new grad. I have 10 years of previous security correctional experience in the State of Florida. I was a housing supervisor in a maximum security unit for 3 years. I wonder if that will assist me in getting a job with the CDC. Should I apply directly to the state or go through an agency or both?
  13. by   cabo2341
    Lucid Vital Nurse,
    Thanks so much for that great info...you really broke it down!
    I have spoken with a couple of LVN's that work in the prison system and they love it! :lol_hitti I just have a question....what are the requirements to apply for a position in the prison system?
  14. by   nursebill1
    Hi there, I am interested in moving to CA and would like to know how many paid vacatation/sick days are offered by working as an RN at the prisons. I have checkd some sites out but they don't really tell you an exact number. Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks.

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