My California CDC experiences thus far.

  1. Hello all,

    Well, where to start? I am a recent "new grad" who got my foundation in the ICU. I learned all the basics, mastered content, delved into the science, and came out alive. However, I wasn't very content.

    My fiance' works at a state prison here in CA in accounting; therefore, she saw how much all the different categories of employees made. She mentioned one day how much Registered Nurse - Correction Facility nurses made. I just about fell out of my chair. Working in the ICU I made $24.75 per hour as a new grad (plus 10% for weekends and an additional 10% for nights). So, working a weekend night 12 hour shift would gross me about $348.00. Take that a step further and go beyond the standard three-day work week and add in an addtional day: comes to about $1300.00 for the week --> $5200.00 per month. Keep in mind, this amount is for working 48 hours.

    Now, due to the Plata vs. Davis lawsuit (which carried over to Arnold), inmates in the state of California were awarded many more rights concerning their health, dental, and psychological care. The state of healthcare in the CDC was so poor, that a special position was created in Sacramento to oversee CDC healthcare for the next 5 years or so; this was done to prevent the Federal government and Bureau of Prisons from taking over CDC healthcare.

    Fast-forward to October 2006. This newly appointed government official started to clean house in a big way. However, the stigma of correctional nursing being only for "nurses who suck" was powerful. This official had to overcome this stereotype in order to bring in strong nurses. And the best way to do that? You got it: money. Therefore, most new RN hires are brought on under "Plata positions" and they are VERY well compensated. The starting wage for a Registered Nurse, Correctional Facility (Plata position) is from $7045.00 to $8100.00 per month. Let that soak in a moment.

    So, let's break this down. Taking the "step A" wage of $7045.00 per month for 40 hours worked, it comes out to be just over $44.00 per hour. This is working five 8 hour shifts with two consecutive days off in a row. Instead of working either day or night shift at the hospital, you have the choice of three shifts, or "watches." These run from 6am - 2pm (second watch), 2pm - 10pm (third watch), and 10pm -6am (first watch). So, not only do CDC RNs make $19.25 more per hour, they gross more than a RN working at the local hospital who worked 5 days in a week; a total of 60 hours (depending on which hospital's overtime calculation you are going off of).

    But wait, it gets more interesting: overtime.

    You want overtime at the CDC? You got boatloads. Sometimes you are actually stopped at the gate and told to report back to your unit in order to do another 8 hour shift. Some may hate this, others may like it; it's all personal preference I suppose. Want to pick up some extra overtime? No problem. Many live for the chance of overtime, but many more want to go home at the end of their shift. I'm in the boat of people that love overtime. This is how overtime works (basically):

    You don't have to wait until you are over 40 hours for overtime to kick in. If you work over your 8 hour shift, you automatically begin overtime hours. Overtime at CDC is time-and-a-half. This works out to be roughly $66.00 an hour. Now, let's compare again:

    Hospital day:
    12 hours x $24.75 = $297.00

    Hospital overtime day (assuming overtime = "double-time"):
    12 hours x ($24.75 x 2) = $594.00

    CDC regular day:
    8 hours x $44.00 = $352.00

    CDC overtime day:
    (8 hours x $44.00) + (8 hours x $66.00) = $800.00

    This may not be a true "apples-to-apples" comparison due to the fact that the hospital worker is working a 12 hour shift, while the CDC worker is working a 16 hour shift. But, here is where the fun comes in...

    Let's say I work M-F from 6am to 2pm. This is a standard 40 hour workweek at CDC. For doing this every week in a pay period, I will gross $7045.00 per month. Now, let's add in two days of overtime shifts. Remember, that is two 8 hour shifts at $66.00 per hour. So, combine the 40 hour week at $44.00 per hour with the 16 hours of overtime at $66.00 per hour, you get $2816.00 per week; now, multiply that by 4 weeks = $11264.00 per month for working a 60 hour week for 4 weeks.

    Working a 60 hour week at the hospital (5 twelve hour shifts) makes approximately $1960.00 per week; again, multiply that by 4 weeks = $7920.00.

    So, the difference, in raw hours worked (with overtime figured in) is approximately $3344.00 per month in favor of the CDC RN. Let's take it a step further again just for fun.

    Yearly gross hospital worker income on 60 hours worked per week:

    Yearly gross CDC worker income on 60 hours worked per week:

    Total difference:
    $40,128 per year

    Pumped yet? Need more info? Good , continue to read on.

    Oops, forgot to mention the $4500.00 sign-on bonus.

    Okay, so what is the application process like? Well, first you have to register on the Ca state website and take a "test." It's not even really a test; more like a survey of what you have done within the last 6 months or so. After completing the test, you get an immediate grade which then ranks you against everyone else in Ca applying for the job. There are a total of 14 ranks (I think) and CDC usually only pulls applicants for interviews out of the top 3 ranks. As it stands now, there is roughly 3000 to 4000 people who are ranked for interviews in the entire state. So, you basically have to wait your turn to be interviewed. This process took about four months for me. When I tested, I ranked 4 out of 14.

    Then one day I got a call to come in for an interview. I arrived and had to answer questions in front of a panel of three interviewers. After the interview, about two weeks passed until they started to call for references (keep in mind that the CDC will usually only call for reference checks if they are thinking of hiring). After that round of waiting, I received a call one week later with the job offer pending a TB test, physical, and DOJ/FBI background check.

    So, with all of that out of the way, I was hired. So, time from completing the online test to starting my first day at worked took about 4 months (your mileage may vary). At the prison I was applying for, they were hiring a total of 14 new RNs and interviewed approximately 150 applicants.

    I'm a little tired tonight to type out what my days are like, so I will continue this thread at a later date. Needless to say, I LOVE my job. I love going to work, I love working overtime, and I love the excitement, challenge, responsibility, and the compensation. I didn't even mention the retirement, benefits, etc which are equally spectacular (safety retirement rules).

    So, if you are curious about going into a career in correctional nursing, reply to this thread and I will answer what I can from my experience. It was the best choice I've ever made.

    To be continued...
  2. Visit EnigmaticParadigm profile page

    About EnigmaticParadigm

    Joined: Apr '05; Posts: 27; Likes: 40


  3. by   Sheri257
    I too thought the base pay was about $44 hour but ... it doesn't quite work out that way. It's really $40 an hour ... nothing to complain about, of course, but it's not $44.

    It would be $44 an hour if you were only working four 40 hour weeks or 160 hours a month, but the months don't break down that way. You actually end up working 8-16 hours more than that each month because each month usually includes one or two additional working days.

    For example, if you're working 8 hours Mon-Fri in May ... that doesn't mean you're only working 160 hours that month ... because May is a long month. It's not just a four week month ... there's a couple of extra weekdays in there.

    So .... you get $7045 a month but you have to put in 176 hours most months and 168 hours in shorter months.

    Actually, the best way to calculate the hourly rate is 40 hours a week at 52 weeks a year ... which ends up being about 2088 hours per year so .... for a more accurate hourly rate you have to take the total base pay ($84540) and divide that by 2088 hours.

    That's how it ends up being about $40 an hour on average. However, with the $3K in bonuses which is paid the first year (the additional $1,500 bonus isn't paid until 18 months) ... then the pay gets up to $42 an hour ($87540 divided by 2088 hours).

    After the first year the pay gets up to about $7,400 a month ... but that still ends up being a little more than $42 an hour. But when you add the $1,500 bonus in the second year the pay gets up to $43.

    However, from what I understand two more pay raises are coming in the summer and fall and ... eventually the base pay is supposed to get up to nearly $46 an hour at $8,100 a month.

    And you're right ... the OT is great. At $60 an hour I work as much OT as I can ... and, luckily, I'm in a job where I can pretty much set the amount of OT I want ... it's not mandated.

    Last edit by Sheri257 on May 26, '07
  4. by   Sheri257
    Quote from EnigmaticParadigm
    So, time from completing the online test to starting my first day at worked took about 4 months (your mileage may vary). At the prison I was applying for, they were hiring a total of 14 new RNs and interviewed approximately 150 applicants.
    It's amazing what great pay raises will do. Hospitals with low pay are begging for nurses but, Cali Corrections now has at least 10 applicants for each job because of the higher pay.

    What I did was cast a wide net and apply to all five prisons in my area because just about all of them had a waiting list of 200-300 RN's who had taken the exam. In the meantime, I took a low paying job at a privately contracted CDC prison because one of the HR people told me that corrections experience would help me stand out and, apparently, it did ... it took me two months to get hired.

    Last edit by Sheri257 on May 26, '07
  5. by   surgnurse26
    Out of the 7045.00 a month base pay, how much is a single nurse clearing(net pay) from this? I am applying for DOC in nevada, here we have no state income tax. Just wondering how much taxes hurt in california. Also how much of a raise is cali maybe going to give RNs for the prison in the summer and fall? Also does holiday pay double and a half?
    Last edit by surgnurse26 on May 26, '07
  6. by   Sheri257
    California income tax can get up to 9 percent and it probably will in my case since my husband also makes a nice income. But, with Cali Corrections you don't have to pay Social Security taxes. However, that may also be the case with Nevada corrections.

    Keep in mind that the pay right now is really about $7,400 a month. Because even though the starting base pay is $7045 you also get $3,000 in bonuses the first year and another $1,500 in 18 months. After that you make $7,400 a month ... which is pretty much the same as the starting base pay including bonuses.

    From what I've been told (although I'm not sure if this is accurate) the pay raise for the summer will be a union negotiated 3.5 percent raise but I don't know yet what the September pay raise will be.

    However, the pay will eventually get up to $8150 a month ... that's what's been promised and posted on the Cali Corrections website. But I don't know when that will happen.

  7. by   surgnurse26
    Does the employees pay into their retierement or does the state pay that for you. I am comparing this with nevada corrections. I do apperctaite the info. In nevada, we have the option to pay into or retirement( with this we make more money, but take home less compared to the employer paying it and making less but taking home more if that makes sense). Is cali like this also. I am just wondering if I may come out the same take home in cali as compared to nevada. Seems like it may be close as far as take home, nevada is getting pretty competetive, I have a postion pending with nevada right now, but california corrections is catching my eye.
  8. by   Sheri257
    My first question would be ... exactly how much does Nevada Corrections pay?

    Because for the Correctional Nurse One position in Nevada I see a pay scale of $43K to $62K ...

    For Correctional Nurse II (where two years experience is required) the pay scale is $45K to nearly $70K.

    So my first question would be how long does it take to make that $70K because with Cali Corrections everybody more or less starts at top scale or about $88K regardless of their experience ... not counting the future pay raises.

    Since it looks like the starting scale in Nevada is pretty low at $43K ... and I notice you're a nursing student ... it looks to me like you'd lose a lot of income right there ... at least $55K gross to start ... even with no income tax in Nevada.

    So I'm not sure how that's competitive with Cali. Even if Nevada Corrections RN's get bumped up to Pay Scale 39 (which I notice you were discussing on another thread) ...

    That's a pay scale of $51K to $76K ... presumably as a new grad you'd have to start with that $51K. That still would be a huge loss of nearly $34K gross versus what you would make at Cali Corrections as a new grad the first year.

    If it takes five years to get up to $70K or $76K (whatever was approved or not approved by the legislature) then it's definitely an even greater money loser by comparison ....

    At that point ... California's extra income tax really doesn't matter that much. At $87,540 the first year (base pay of $7045 per month plus $3K in bonuses the first year) ...

    Cali's income tax would cost you about $5,800 ... still leaving you with about $57K after all taxes, including federal etc.

    At $51K in Nevada ... you'd only take home about $37K even without state income tax so ...

    That's a $20,000 net income loss after tax just in the first year. Not to mention additional income losses as the Cali Corrections pay eventually rises to $98K a year.

    Even if you eventually get up to $76K in Nevada ... I just don't see how you would ever catch up to Cali Corrections take home pay ... even with no Nevada income tax ...

    Unless .... you're a veteran Nevada Corrections RN who's already making top scale. If it's $76K (although I couldn't find anything on the Nevada website that mentions it) ...

    Then, you're right ... it's probably a break even proposition at Cali's current $88K a year with a negligible $2K difference or $55K versus 57K take home pay either way.

    But once the Cali pay gets up to $98K then Cali nurses will take home about $7K more a year after tax than veteran Nevada nurses at the presumed $76K top scale.

    But ... if top scale is still only $70K then Cali nurses still take home $6K more after tax at $88K ... which will increase to $11K more take home once the Cali pay gets up to $98K a year.

    The problem, really, is how long it would take to make that top scale because as a nursing student and future new grad you could lose a hellava lot of income that way.

    Last edit by Sheri257 on May 27, '07
  9. by   Sheri257
    Oops ... double post.
    Last edit by Sheri257 on May 27, '07
  10. by   surgnurse26
    Nurses are getting a 2 pay-grade raise and nurses start out top out at the top of the pay scale, I will be starting out as a CN1 until january, then go to a cn 2, The pay wil be 76,504 a year, but then add a 2-3%raise for COL that is to go into effect this july, so close to 78,000, we pay no state income tax in this state. The difference is about 12%, but minus the 9% state income tax and higher federal tax for higher income, i think pretty nevada is pretty close to cali. Another raise in next july of 3-4% next year is a possibility. But yes, nurses start topped out in the pay scale. The pay is also hourly, not a monthly base salary. Next july and working a swing shift and including all state holiday pay that u dont work, you are looking at 88,000 a year minium with no over time come july 2008. Cali i think will take home more, but pretty close. I am still thinking of cali corrections in the future, but the closes prison is almost two hours away and only have 8 hour shifts, and for a 2-3 thou more, not worth it right now, i would like to try and maybe move to monteray in the future and try for that correction training facility, but have no idea the difficulties it would be to get into a particular facilty in california. But california is still catching my eye, but just want to know if the take home will really be that signicant right now. A previous question i did have is do all employees pay into pers, this is something that can make the difference is how much you one clears, we have the opition in nevada to pay into pers, better explained in previous post by me. Just wondering out of the 7045.00/mn you would start at, how much would you pay into retirement? My main objective is to see what one really nets compared to the other from my questions. I wouldn't mind a break down. I do so appreciate all the info, very interesting and very reassuring of the profession i have chosen for sure, The prison setting is not an unfamiliar place, i was a correctional officer for 6 yrs, but left my final semester to finish nursing school. Can't beat state jobs compared to the private sector.
    Last edit by surgnurse26 on May 27, '07
  11. by   Sheri257
    Funny ... I couldn't find anything about nurses starting at top scale on the Nevada state website or, even, on the net. I couldn't find anything on the $76K either except your thread on this board. When the California pay raises came down it was announced both in the news and on the state's website.

    As far as I know you don't have to pay into Calpers if you don't want to. I don't know exactly how much it is because I haven't gotten my first pay check yet but, I've heard it's about the same as SS tax. I can let you know by the end of the week.

    Although keep in mind that the Calpers contribution, if you choose to pay it, is deducted from your total income and saves you some taxes ... unlike the SS tax which is a percentage taken directly from your total income.

    So the amount I pay for Calpers, for example, wouldn't be exactly the same as the amount you save if you don't pay it ... because there's a tax deduction in there.

    Last edit by Sheri257 on May 27, '07
  12. by   Sheri257
    And remember ... I said the tax can get up to 9 percent ... because I was also including my husband's income.

    But at $88K a year the tax wouldn't be 9 percent ... it would be more like 6.5 percent for a single person or $5,500 a year.

    Quote from surgnurse26
    I am still thinking of cali corrections in the future, but the closes prison is almost two hours away and only have 8 hour shifts, and for a 2-3 thou more, not worth it right now, i would like to try and maybe move to monteray in the future and try for that correction training facility, but have no idea the difficulties it would be to get into a particular facilty in california.
    Last time I checked there were 3,100 RN's waiting for corrections jobs in California and Monterey is a very popular spot so ... who knows how difficult it would be. A friend of mine just interviewed for a corrections job and didn't get it so, it can be tough. But she didn't apply to as many facilities as I did ... which she's now regretting.

    It really depends on how the pay compares with hospital pay and how many RN's are in the area. If the hospital pay sucks then, there's typically waiting lists of 200-300 RN's at each facility. And, obviously the chances are better with facilities where there are fewer RN's in the area ...

    So while Monterey hospital pay may be good and there might not be as much competition because of that ... a lot of people want to live there so there may be more competition just because it's a gorgeous area.

    Last edit by Sheri257 on May 27, '07
  13. by   adam90803
    Hi, Sheri257 -

    I have a year left in nursing school.

    I have been interested in correctional nursing for years now, ever since I worked for a little bit (maybe six months, years ago) in a county jail and talked with some of the RNs there.

    So now, I'm finally in a BSN program and a year out from finishing.

    I wanted to ask you about your path to correctional nursing, if you don't mind.

    You mentioned taking a low-paying job at a private prison (I think that's what you said?) to have corrections experience, is that right? Was this a health care job, or specifically an RN job even...or non-health care?

    I would do any job in a private prison if I thought it would seriously aid me in my goal of working in a state prison.

    Of course, being a new grad, there's that as well. I don't know how much that would go against me...or if I should just plan on taking the test (that online have to have a license to even take it, right?) as soon as I'm licensed, but plan on doing med-surg or something until I get an interview?

    Thanks for your time and your help on all this. It's been great reading your posts (all of you). So grateful to have the information.

  14. by   shell911rn
    From what I've read on other posts, you will probably need some experience before coming to CDCR as the online exam you are speaking of is not really an "exam" per se, but an accounting of your experience...Points are assigned somehow based on your responses and then you are placed on a list based on the total number of points based on your experience...When I applied roughly 2 years ago, there wasn't much, with the salary increase, there is a lot of competition...Since you have your heart set on working in corrections, you might see if you can get in to county jail first to get your experience...The Department of Mental Health is also another way to get your foot in the door with the state so that you could possibly transfer to CDCR in the future....A lot of DMH patients come from state prison anyways (CDCR even provides custody for the perimeter of state hospitals) so you'd get a taste of what you will be dealing with as far as mentally ill inmates...I'd search online and contact county jails to find out what type of support staff is hired for the medical staff to see if you can't get your foot in the door...Some state prisons are hiring CNA's as well, which might be another way you could get your foot in the door before you get your RN...I applied for and tested for my CNA after my first semester of RN school, which allowed me to work a part time job seeing what nurses did...Let me tell you though, I thought I knew what it was like to be an RN after my observations, but it's a whole other world when you actually have that's not just about the tasks you observe the RN's also the critical thinking skills that you can't see that the RN is doing that people don't realize goes in to nursing...I was overwhelmed when I first started out on my own...It's an amazing and humbling experience to be an RN...Good luck to you with your education and don't worry about whether you have med/surg or not...There are many different jobs for nurses within CDCR from public health to med passes to triage and sick call...If there was any one class that I wish the state would offer to the nursing staff of CDCR, it would be an EMT class because it would better prepare us on how to handle riots and trauma...If you have time, I would recommend seeking out an EMT class or at least reading up on the skills of an EMT and may be even doing some work in an ER as a student nurse...My skills as an EMT and ER nurse have helped me tremendously with CDCR...I even took an EMT recert class a couple of weeks ago to brush up on my skills...Hope this helps...

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