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 some Correctional Nurse 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.
Correctional Nurse Interview Prep Guide
In the specialty of corrections, however, several other things that you should keep in mind in order to prepare yourself for a productive interview.
Most correctional facilities require modest dress. Dress conservatively for your first experience inside. This means no visible cleavage, no strappy high-heeled sandals, no sleeveless tops or dresses. It is best to leave cellphones and wallets locked in your car. Bring your drivers license, keys, and any paperwork with you. 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.
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. Find out during your interview process if this environment will be a difficulty for you.
Correctional Officers (COs)
COs are also referred to as Custody Officers or Security Officers. Try not to refer to them as guards. 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.
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 inmates? A good orientation in corrections includes more than policy and procedure. You will want to hear that you would 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.
- Are nurses given safety alarm mechanisms? What is used in this facility? 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.
Do you have other interview questions or tips for someone entering the correctional nursing field? Enter a comment below.
Potential Interview Questions
Now I’ll help you prepare for the interview by developing responses to some common interview questions. These questions were suggested by members of the Specialty Forum for Correctional Nurses at the All Nurses web community. I highly recommend that website and forum for more interview help.
How do you feel about providing care for inmates?
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 there is a good match. Many who thrive in the corrections specialty consider their role in caring for the disadvantaged or their impact on 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 needy and disadvantaged 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 for a Correctional Health Nurse.
Working in corrections involves medication administration, patient teaching, ambulatory care visits, emergency response, therapeutic communication and dealing with behavior 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.
Manipulative behavior is very common among the inmate population. What are some nursing skills that are helpful in dealing with this behavior?
Do some reading about manipulative behavior such as this article on Medscape. Develop ideas for responding to this behavior from inmates – it is pervasive. Generally, combat manipulative behavior by being alert to it and responding in a firm, fair, and consistent manner. Also, treat all inmate-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 shift gears quickly while still getting required work done. Knowledge might include understanding of communicable diseases, the health needs of the inmate population, and safety procedures. Work behaviors would include being reliable, always letting team member know where you are, good follow-through, and being firm, fair and consistent with inmates and staff.
How would you do patient teaching for an inmate on how to manage diabetes?
In answering any question about patient teaching, be sure to mention the need to present the material in easy-to-understand language. In addition, be sure to note that some patients may not be able to read, making written material less helpful.
What would you do if you found an inmate down?
The important concern in corrections is always safety. Therefore, your response would 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 inmate population you need to be sure you are secure 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.
General Nursing Questions
Other general nursing questions may be asked such as the 5 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 corrections positions, add new question examples and responses in the comments section of this post. You will be helping those who follow you into the specialty!
If you like this post, you might like to visit:
Preparing for a Correctional Nurse Position Interview: Part I
Preparing for a Correctional Nurse Position Interview: Part II
Preparing for a Correctional Nurse Position Interview: Part III
How to Perform a Psychiatric Nursing Assessment
Root Cause Analysis: Patient Safety Powerhouse