1. #1
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    Default Hiring process question

    I had a question regarding past prescription medication history (Anitdepressants, Antianxiety, etc.) and the affect on the psych process. This question is for firefighters who have gone through the process with a history of these meds, and were still hired. I am looking for advice on what questions to expect and how to handle these questions. I am applying for a local and will be going through this last phase very soon. This is the last step before getting hired. Please PM if you don't feel comfortable posting on the forum. I appreciate your help and any information you feel comfortable providing.

    Thank you in advance.

    Joe

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    Thank you for those that have looked at this Thread. Please let me know if you have any suggestions.

    Thank you again.

    Joe

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    A lot of times having had a prescription for the meds that you describe can be a deal breaker. I have talked to a lot of people that have been kept out of the fire service because of past prescriptions. The one person I know was hired had been given a prescription for an antidepressant med after his father died. It did come up and he told them that he had gotten the prescription but never filled or never took it, I can’t remember which. I don’t know if that was the truth but it got him past that part of his background.

    Good Luck, Capt Rob

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    If you list on your background, medical and psych information forms that you have seen a psychologist in the past or have been on anxiety or anti-depressants, the psychologist who interviews you is going to want to know why and talk to your doc. If your medical insurance paid the bill there is a record. In the process you will sign off your rights and they can look at anything they want.

    If a candidate has had a history of anxiety related disorders and medications their odds of becoming a firefighter are not good. Where is can really play out is in the psych evaluation most of these candidates fail. With problems in your past the doc will ask you some difficult questions that could take the wheels off your wagon.

    I asked a psychiatrist if someone gets treatment for a medical condition that’s OK. But it’s treated differently if someone seeks treatment for a psychological condition it can affect their chances of being hiring as a firefighter. The doc said it shouldn’t but too often does.
    _____________________________________________

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    I do not personally have any behavioral health conditions, but during my time in the military I have worked with many people that have, documenting their medical history and providing a summary and recommendation to the commanders if a service member should or should not be deployed to a combat zone. Hope you don't mind that I am offering my two cents.

    Unfortunately, behavioral health conditions have a huge stigma attached to them. As a society, we are making progress accepting that the mind can be psychologically harmed and then treated (through counseling and/or medications) to return to a normal state. However, we are not there yet and the research behind it all is still in it's relative infancy. With the situations that FFs are put in on a regular basis - dealing with death of children, blood and gore, mass devastation of property, etc. - most depts are not willing to take the risk on a candidate with a history of behavioral health issues. In their eyes, it has happened once before so it could happen again. What happens if it happens inside a burning structure? Not only will that person be ineffective as a FF or rescuer, but they also increased the victim count and possibly need to be rescued themselves.

    As for the questions to expect, here are some topics:
    - How many times have you sought help (treatment) for a behavioral/mental health condition? (include any counseling, regardless if it was in-patient or out-patient, and voluntary or involuntary)
    - When did you first seek help for any condition? How many times have you been in counseling? When was the most recent time?
    - What were the conditions surrounding your decision to seek help?
    - What was the diagnosis?
    - What was the treatment? How long did it last? If treated with medicine, what dosage and how long were you on the medication?
    - What is the name of your counselor/psychiatrist/psychologist/etc and how do we get in contact with them?
    - How do you cope with the situation that originally caused this condition when it happens now?

    Basically, they are going to want to know everything and anything surrounding your condition. Yes, you are being put under a microscope, but they are doing this to try and QUALIFY you for the job. If you don't provide the information, or intentionally omit it, you will be disqualified immediately.

    So it is important to be honest and answer their questions. However, don't go on a long drawn out story about everything in your life that has ever happened to you and how it made you feel and so on. Concisely, yet honestly and completely, answer the question and then wait for them. If they want more information about something, they will ask for it. Counselors/investigators/etc love to use silence to their advantage. Most people are extremely uncomfortable when people just sit there quietly. They will start to fill the empty space with more extraneous information that is not needed. Also, there is no need to answer the question immediately after they ask it. Take a second to think about it and then answer.

    Good luck!

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    Thank you for the posts, everyone.

    CaptBob, I read on your site about mental health (ADD) being protected by ADA law. I did some research and it looks like depression can be protected (though you have to jump through hoops). Also, from what I have gathered, the psychological testing is to measure your ablility to perform the necessary functions at the present time, not based on who you were 5 years ago. For example, 5 years ago I wouldn't have been able to watch a baby tear out of a woman's body without passing out. 2 years ago, I marveled at the experience (birth of my first child). Anyone that can provide insights to this would have my deepest appreciation.

    Secondly, 5 years ago I went into the doctor's office thinking that I actually had ADD. It was my last year of college, I was bored, I couldn't focus, I couldn't concentrate on my school work and I was nervous about leaving school and not knowing if I would have a job. The doctor said it sounds like I was depressed and had anxiety so he prescribed those two medicines. The Anti-depressants made me feel like a zombie and the Anti-anxiety medicine made me too tired. I stopped taking them both and have been off for over 3 years.

    Thank you to everyone that replied. Again, I appreciate your thoughts.


    Respectfully,
    Joe


    **EDIT**
    It looks like the Psych test is not for the FD, but for the PERF. I don't know if this makes a difference.
    Thanks.
    Last edited by butaneandpropane; 07-18-2010 at 01:06 AM.

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    Im not sure, but would HIPAA apply here?? For something in the past too. Just how thorough does a FD have to be as far as medical/psych exam? Sure you must be physically/mentally fit for the job, but I know a few fellows that were passed over for some BS previous condition.

    Not that Im in any way implying you should deceive anyone, but depending on the med, alot of anitdepressants arent looked for in a drug test.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fieldseng2 View Post
    Im not sure, but would HIPAA apply here?? For something in the past too. Just how thorough does a FD have to be as far as medical/psych exam? Sure you must be physically/mentally fit for the job, but I know a few fellows that were passed over for some BS previous condition.
    HIPPA doesn't apply here because you will sign off all your rights and they can look into anything they want. You will also be asked in several different ways in the background packet "Have You Ever". If you don't put it down and they find it, you're gone.

    Quote Originally Posted by fieldseng2 View Post
    Sure you must be physically/mentally fit for the job, but I know a few fellows that were passed over for some BS previous condition.
    I agree it's not fair. I've known candidates who were told by the psych doc that they weren't the ones that decide whether a candidate gets hired or not. Now, that's BS because some candidates have been able to see their psych evaulation report (some as a result of a suit) that states right on the report not recommended for hire.

    The psychological test is changing the fire service. Sure there are some folks who have a lot of baggage and shouldn’t be hired. But most of the red-hot’s, the backbone of the fire service, can’t make it through the process. Surprisingly, the evaluations are based on the performance of those already in the fire service.

    More and more agencies are using the psychological test in their hiring process. Psychologists are competing for this lucrative business and agencies feel they need this service to hire the right candidates. In one large department forty-percent of candidates were eliminated from the hiring process through the psychological tests. Fire administrations feel theirs hands are tied and get frustrated when they see that a high percentage of their superior candidates who were eliminated by their physiological test are being hired by other agencies.

    Some agencies have stopped using the psych evaluation because of the candidates they were getting after the process. They've felt the Background investigation would reveal what they needed to know.

    “Psychologists are given more power than they should,” says Robert Thomas Flint, Ph.D., who sometimes does re-evaluations of potential peace officers and firefighters who have failed psychological tests. Although he tends to agree 40-50% of the original decisions were valid, he finds that another 30-50% of the rejected candidates are acceptable and can handle the job.

    Dr. Flint feels that the PhD has been watered down, i.e., many of graduates in the last ten years, and the psychologist too often paint by the numbers and disqualify a person because they might have an unusual background.

    These psychologists do not have an adequate background in the statistics and the research necessary to be fully competent in the use of tests with unusual populations. That is, they are trained in identifying problems in the general population but are less skilled in the identifying the strengths in special groups such as firefighters. They also tend to have difficulty incorporating unusual backgrounds into their reports. But, don’t a higher percentage of those with a burning desire for this job fall into these categories?

    Much of the problem falls on the cities themselves for not having control of the guidelines that the psychologists are using. Left on their own, psychologists will use their own devises to decide what to do, and this is not always related to the department’s needs. If the guidelines are not well defined by the agency, then the psychologist might wash the candidate out for reasons not job relevant.

    Fire Administrations need to control the process by knowing the target they are trying to hit, what are the traits they are looking for. Then set those guidelines for the psychological test. Some obvious ones are being able to operate in a living environment, conflict resolution, being able to follow instructions, and functioning during emergency calls. Also, if problems of discipline or any other current problems are occurring within the department, those areas of concern should be address in the psychological test.

    According to Dr. Flint, too much emphasis is placed on the paper and pencil test. He feels strongly that unusual test scores should be evaluated in the light of the candidate’s history. Very young candidates 21-25 often do not have enough history to refute problems suggested on the test. All candidates believe of course that they can handle the job, that they can meet any challenges, that they will hold up well at emergencies. The psychologist’s job is to determine, as closely as possible whether those beliefs are sound. To give someone the benefit of the doubt maybe endangering them or someone else.

    If a candidate can demonstrate that he has overcome areas of conflict that the written test reveals and his early history demonstrates, then the test interpretation should reflect that fact. The paper score then should be thrown out, not the candidate.

    A case in point is a candidate that had been a smoke-jumper paramedic for the forest service. There is no doubt that this person could do the job. He scored high in the initiative category but Dr. Flint wanted to make sure his score on the conformity scale was high enough to balance out his high initiative score. Otherwise he might not be able to follow orders, wanting to do it his way.

    This from an in service firefighter: During the last hiring process 2 years ago the psychologist passed 10 people. Of those 10, 2 have quit, 2 have been fired, and 1 committed suicide. I wonder if he is worth what the city pays him to evaluate prospects? Have a nice weekend.
    _____________________________________________

    "Nothing counts 'til you have the badge . . . Nothing!"

    Fire "Captain Bob"

    www.eatstress.com

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    Again, thank you everyone.

    I'll be getting a copy of my medical records from my Dr. just to see what is in there. I've contacted the insurance company, and they stated that they don't keep records of types of medicines that they paid for, they just pay the bills when they come in. Obviously they have codes for pay-outs to pharmacies, but that is the extent of it. I contacted CVS (the only pharmacy I've ever been to) to ask them how long they keep their prescription history. They stated that they only keep two years worth of history and that they are never contacted for the purpose of medical history. This is all taken care of through the doctor.

    Once I get my medical history, I might make an appointment with my doctor to discuss.

    From the local FFs I've spoken with, this could all be a moot point. From what I've gathered from them, you go in for the psych test, then spend 15-30 minutes going over the results with an LCSW. If you marked on the test that you would rather be a librarian than a sales manager, you need to explain why... I might be making a mountain out of a mole hill.

    Regardless, thanks again for everyone who responded. Please keep the ideas coming (from those that have experienced this process).

    Respectfully,
    Joe

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