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Excuse the length of this post but maybe it will help ...
I work for a Cali Corrections adult facility so I don't know much about what the juvenile facilities but, to be honest, I think a lot of the interview itself can be arbitrary. I'm not sure you can pinpoint the right or wrong way to handle the interview per se.
I thought I completely blew the interview. In fact, I know I did because one of the panel members even scolded me for not knowing some things yet, I was hired ... probably because I had some corrections experience and, also, this facility was expanding at the time.
I've been told that generally they like corrections and psych experience ... especially if you've worked in forensic psych. You might consider working for a state forensic facility and then transferring over because a lot of people have gotten into corrections that way.
Also ... in my facility at least ... if you work there as an agency nurse first, you have a much better shot at getting hired as a state employee when they have openings because you've already worked for them and they already know you.
I've also noticed that they've hired a lot of ER and ICU nurses, at least at my facility, because that's an area that the federal receiver has been hammering on. So obviously it also depends on what kind of units they have and what they're hiring for. But, of course, a juvenile facility could be looking for something different.
On a side note: try not to beat yourself up if you don't get hired. With these pay raises they literally have dozens of applicants for each opening so ... you really can't assume you did anything wrong. It's really just the fact that there's so much competition for these jobs.
That's why I think working forensic psych or corrections agency would help give you an edge over the competition. I didn't work agency because I'm a new grad and didn't have the required one year experience for that but ... I did work for a CDC private contracted prison and I think that's why I was hired.
In my orientation class ... only two out of 20 or so newly hired nurses (most of whom were LVN's) had corrections experience ... none of the RN's had corrections experience ... so I do think it can help you stand out.
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You are lucky to have a job with the state. It seems so hard to get a job now a days with the state especially in corrections. I've been trying but have only gotten one adult interview and did not get the job. And now after months got the letter to try for this juvenille facility. I scored 90% on my online exam but that really does not seem to help. I just don't know what the secret is. Thank you for your advice. Your input helps so much!
Well, I don't know if this is the secret but ... this is what I did.
The exam is really just something to get you in door for the interview. Otherwise, it doesn't matter that much. I didn't score very high on the exam because I'm a new grad and took the exam the day after I got my license. Since the exam is based on post-RN experience, and I obviously didn't have much of that at the time ... I didn't score very high. And, when I got my exam score I also noticed that 3,200 RN's were on the waiting list for jobs statewide.
I didn't get called for a couple of interviews because of my low exam score. So ... I was trying to figure out how I could get hired with that disadvantage and, also, fighting the waiting lists for these jobs. The first thing I did was apply to every corrections facility I could find within a two hour drive and there were six of them ... four adult, two juvenile.
I knew the drive would be a killer if I was hired at some of these facilities (and it is with my current job) but ... I figured it would be worth it just to increase my chances and get into the system. Besides ... I figured I could transfer later on to a closer facility since, once you're in the system and past probation, I've heard you get preference for other openings.
I friend of mine didn't apply to facilities farther away ... even though I told her to do so ... and now she's really regretting it. Like you, she was called for one interview but didn't get it, mostly because there are tons of RN's in that particular area and the competition is really tough.
The facility where I'm working at now doesn't have as many RN's in the area and, as it turned out, they were expanding their medical services so ... they were on a hiring spree at the time (not so much now.) That combined with the fact that they were the medical hub for the private prison I previously worked at probably helped me get into the door since I was already familiar with their system.
While I was applying ... I tried to get these state personnel and other CDC people to give me hints on how to get hired so I visited every facility personally. Most weren't helpful but one lady was. She told me to work corrections as an agency RN but, I didn't qualify for that as a new grad. So, I went to work for a private CDC prison that was begging for nurses since their pay is so low.
I only worked that job for a couple of months but, I think it really gave me an edge. Not just with the work experience but I also made a point of talking to the CDC people who worked there ... asking what I could do to get hired.
This is why I think corrections experience is key but ... also ... mental health because ... there's so much psych in corrections and the CDC people told me they really like that. Plus, if you go to work for a state mental health facility ... you can also put in for a transfer from there. Once you are past probation and officially a state employee ... you can pretty much transfer anywhere (or so I've heard).
That's why I also applied to two state forensic mental health facilities in my area because, even though there was also a lot of competition for some of those jobs, there were also a lot more openings than corrections so I figured I could increase my chances there. I was in the final stages of interviewing with mental health and was going to work there but then I got offered the corrections job and took that instead.
Basically ... I worked every angle I could to get hired because, as you know, it's pretty tricky.
Again, excuse the length of the post ...
If you already have psych and corrections experience, I would try to emphasize that as much as you can during the interview ... while still staying on topic with the questions. That's what I did ... even though, as you probably know, the "interview" is really just another exam.
Even though the questions didn't have much to do with my work experience and, at first, they didn't seem very interested in it, I mentioned it as much as I could. I also mentioned my school clinical rotation at a forensic psych facility, hoping that would help since my CDC contacts said it might.
So ... when I was answering questions I would, when it was appropriate, try to add statements like ... "At the prison this is what I do for inmate patients with that condition ..." Or, if it was a psych question I'd say ... "When I did my clinical rotation at this forensic psych facility this is how I handled this type of situation ...."
With one of the questions about contagious diseases I mentioned how we handled a potential outbreak at our prison and how we coordinated that situation with people at their facility. So, even though I didn't know all of the "correct" answers ... far from it, in fact ... that seemed to resonate with them a little bit.
Also ... if possible, look up the CDC nursing protocols online, if they're available. I notice from the orientation material I've received that a lot of the interview material is in there. It sure would have helped if I had that material ahead of time like ... what to do when an inmate or CO gets stabbed, TB protocols, etc.
Overall ... I think the state application process is bizarre with all of the agencies. And, those advertisements can be very misleading. From what I understand state regulations require that they advertise every opening even if they have 200-300 RN's who've already applied and there's just one opening where, for all practical purposes, the position has already been filled.
When I first took the exam ... all of the correctional facilties in my area told me they weren't hiring. Some friends of mine were discouraged by that and didn't apply but, I did it anyway. I applied to other state agencies also ... not just mental health because, I was going to try to get hired by the state no matter what and transfer any way I could.
At first the facility where I'm working at now was very discouraging. They told me I probably didn't score high enough and that they only occassionally get down to my score on the list.
Then, two months later, I get this letter asking me to interview in just four days which, as you know, is really fast for the state. Three days later I was hired so, things can change in a relatively short period of time. But, if you haven't gotten yourself on the list for that facility and haven't put in your application (which can take a couple of months for them to process) then ... you can miss opportunities when they do come up.
As far as where the most openings will be ... that can sometimes be very difficult to predict because it's always changing. I still can't figure it out even at my facility. I got lucky because this facility has hired 20 or so RN's in the last six months so ... I had a better chance there than other facilities which had just one opening.
But now ... my facility is a little overstaffed with RNs so they probably won't be hiring for awhile. However, that could easily change because the receiver seems to be dictating how many RN's are being hired and it's very chaotic.
One minute they want RN's in this job, the next minute they want RN's somewhere else. It's not very organized, at least from what I've seen so far. Afterall ... it is a government bureaucracy.
If I had to guess ... probably the easiest way to get hired would be if you applied to prisons in really remote areas where there aren't a lot of RN's. But, of course, that would probably require moving which I considered ... but couldn't do because of my husband's job.
If moving isn't an option, keep in mind that the legislature has just approved a plan to expand a bunch of prisons, and healthcare is going to be a big part of it ... plus, they're going to be building a dozen or so "re-entry" facilities so ... there's going to be more jobs, it's just a question of when.
I even thought of San Quention (sp) but would really be far for me. Probably not easier to get job there either.
Actually, after my previous post, I found this article which says San Quentin just opened a new TTA (which is basically a prison ER) and, apparently, they're going to build a medical center there eventually.
This is why I keep telling my friends to quit worrying about the drive. You never know where the job opportunities are going to open up and, since it can take months just to be called for an interview, you don't want to miss those opportunities. When a facility is expanding like this that's where you have a better shot at getting hired than somewhere else that's fully staffed with just one opening.
It could be different in the Bay Area but, at least for me ... even with the gas money I'm spending for this job (which is no small expense) I'm still bringing home a lot more money than if I was working a hospital or other job closer to home.
Right now I'm making $40 an hour, $60 OT. Not to mention the pension benefits (which I can't get anywhere else) are worth another $6 an hour alone (that's what the state kicks in for my pension). We're getting a 3.4 percent raise this summer plus ... five percent raises a year for the next three years. So I'll eventually be making at least $46 an hour, $70 OT ... (and the pay is even better in the Bay Area).
So that pays for my gas and a lot more. Besides, there's also carpools going to these state facilities where you can save on gas money (although I choose not to do that for various reasons).
I've thought about moving closer to minimize the commute but, I also centrally located where I can drive to other state prisons which are scheduled for expansion. The commute would also be better for me there. So, I'm going to stay put since there probably will be some pretty good transfer and, also, promotion opportunities in the future. Once you put some time in, you can be promoted to supervisor, etc. where you can make even more money.
To be honest with you ... if my friend had listened to me and applied to this other state prison which is a farther commute ... she probably would have been hired by now, like I was. Now that opportunity is gone ... and who knows when she will be hired in the future with all of the competition for these jobs.
IMHO ... you've got to do what it takes to get into the system ... then worry about convenience later because, you'll get that eventually.
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just keep calling them.
The turnover is pretty high, even though the pay is great, and the job easy, Staff comes and goes.
There was a time Donovan was very hard to get into, you had to have time with the state, and people went there to retire, now they are begging for RN's and LVN's, to live in San Diego for $10/hr more than local SD hospitals pay!!!!