So, you are thinking about correctional nursing and even have an interview set up at a local facility. How should you prepare for your interview and what questions should you ask? Today I would like to share Part I of the Correctional Nurse.Net Interview Prep Guide. Of course, all the standard principles for successful interviewing apply here. Good tools for general interview preparation such as interview tips and career guides are available online.
In the specialty of correctional nursing, however, there are several other things that you should keep in mind in order to prepare yourself for a successful interview.
Most correctional facilities require modest dress. Dress professionally for your first experience inside. This means no visible cleavage, no strappy high-heeled sandals, no sleeveless tops or dresses. You will likely go through a security process similar to airport security, which may include wanding and possibly a pat down. Pat downs should only be done by a same-sex custody officer. Cellphones and wallets should be locked in your car. Bring your drivers license, keys, and any paperwork with you.
Be sure to get a full tour of the facility, including every location in which you may be working as a staff nurse. Pay attention to the number and location of custody staff at each location. There should be an officer available at all times for security purposes. Check your own emotional response to being behind bars. It is not for everyone and you should be finding out during your interview process if this environment will be one in which you cannot practice. .
Correctional Officers (COs)
COs are also referred to as Custody Officers or Security Officers. Do not refer to them as guards, as this is considered a derogatory term. During your security entry take note of the diligence with which the officers perform their duties. You want to know that they follow procedure and are not lax in their position. If their focus is on chatting or other non-work activities, they may be distracted from their primary role, which includes keeping you and your colleagues safe.
Questions to Ask
During the interview. you will be asked for any questions you might have. Take this opportunity to find out the following:
- Does nurse orientation include orientation to security procedures and dealing with incarcerated individuals? A good orientation in correctional nursing includes more than policy and procedure. You will want to hear that you will receive information about security procedures; how to remain safe in the facility; safety codes and rules; as well as how to deal with the inmate population.
- What is done to provide safety to staff? There should be a mechanism for nurses to sound an alarm if they feel they are in an unsafe situation. Generally, staff will not be out of sight and/or sound of a custody officer at any time. However, even with mirrors for ‘blind spots’ there is a small opportunity for loss of contact. A well-run facility will have a mechanism in place to alert security of an unsafe situation.
- Is the facility accredited by NCCHC or ACA? Current accreditation with either of these independent bodies indicates that the facility meets nationally recognized quality standards. Their seal of approval is similar to a Joint Commission accreditation for hospitals. An accredited facility is more likely to have well running clinical processes and established practices.
Armed with this information you can make an informed decision about the healthcare at the facility and launching your career in correctional nursing.
Potential Interview Questions
How do you feel about providing care for incarcerated individuals?
This is a good question to ponder before you apply for a position in corrections. The environment is challenging and you want to be sure it is a good match. Many who thrive in the corrections specialty consider their role in caring for a vulnerable population and their impact on community/public health.
Why do you want to work in a correctional facility?
Develop some positive and constructive answers to this question. Some possibilities might be enjoying a challenge, desiring to work in a close-knit team, enjoying variety in the type of care delivered and making an impact on a vulnerable population. Choose one or two reasons and develop a 3-4 sentence response.
Describe your background in nursing and how this will compliment the duties of a Correctional Nurse.
Working in corrections involves medication administration, patient teaching, ambulatory care visits, emergency response, therapeutic communication and dealing with behavioral and psychiatric issues. Think carefully through your past nursing experiences and have a story or two to share about your background that highlights one or more of these areas.
One may have to address manipulative behavior as a correctional nurse. What are some nursing skills that are helpful in dealing with this behavior?
Do some reading about manipulative behavior such as this article on Medpage.Today. Develop ideas for responding to this behavior from patients. Generally, combat manipulative behavior by being alert to it and responding in a firm, fair, and consistent manner. Also, treat all patients with professional respect.
Nursing in a correctional facility requires specialized skills, knowledge and work behaviors. Describe what you think they are.
Skills might include excellent objective assessment, communication, emergency response, and organization skills to include the ability to change priorities quickly while still getting the required work done. Knowledge might include understanding communicable diseases and chronic diseases; the health needs of the incarcerated population; and safety procedures. Work behaviors would include being reliable, working as a team member, and being firm, fair and consistent with patients and staff.
How would you conduct patient teaching with a patient about managing his/her/their diabetes?
In answering any question about patient teaching, be sure to mention the need to present the material in easy-to-understand language, and to consider that the patient may not be able to read, making written material less helpful. The importance of verifying patient comprehension is also very important in any patient education plan.
What would you do if you found a patient down?
An important concern in corrections is always safety. Therefore, your response should be to summon help and proceed only after custody officers indicate that it is safe to begin care. It seems counter-intuitive to wait, but with the incarcerated population, it is important to be sure you are safe before assisting someone. Of course, once safety has been established, you would initiate all the standard emergency medical assessments and procedures, like airway, breathing, circulation, etc. that you would do in any other environment.
General Nursing Questions
Other general nursing questions may be asked about the 5 (or 8….or 10…) rights of medication administration, infection control procedures, assessment, and emergency situations. These are some of the main areas of correctional nursing. The same principles used in acute care or other healthcare settings would apply to the correctional setting.
I hope these sample questions will assist you in landing a correctional nurse position that will meet your career goals. As you interview for correctional nurse positions (or if you are a correctional Nurse manager who asks the questions), please add new question examples and responses in the comments section of this post. You will be helping those who follow you into our specialty!
Stay tuned for Parts II and III to this topic!