In an effort to implement the nursing practice component of the faculty role, the authors developed a prisoner health education program. This paper focuses on the health concerns addressed by the program and the effects on the teaching component of the faculty role.
The program was implemented at a state minimum security correctional institution for adult females. A request for developing a health education program was initiated by the prison staff. The inquiry was made because of the apparent lack of prisoner knowledge related to fulfilling the basic needs of nutrition, activity, and health promotion. As a result, one of the authors responded to the request, and a plan was developed for a series of weekly classes on health topics identified by the prisoners. The health topics were varied and as numerous as the prisoner population itself, which at the time numbered 50. The most frequently requested health topics were presented by the authors and their colleagues. Topics in the first series of classes included stress management, healthy lifestyles, nutrition, smoking cessation, and parenting.
The nurse's role in promoting prisoner health is well-established in some prisons (Murtha, 1975). Despite this, prison settings have apparently not been utilized extensively as sites for faculty practice. The uniqueness of the prison setting for faculty practice is both stimulating and challenging. It is stimulating from two perspectives - the prisoners are from different cultures, and the prison itself is a subculture of the community. The special knowledge required for working in this setting provides a challenge. The language, policies of the prison, and prison procedures are unique. Faculty must be knowledgeable regarding prison rules and regulations. For example, objects that the nonprison population takes for granted may be viewed as contraband and possible aids to escape. Chewing gum, for instance, can be used to plug locks and key holes (McDowell, 1985). Objects commonly used in health education may be among those considered contraband; therefore, the nurse educator is challenged to develop alternative teaching aids.
Although the primary aim of the program is to improve prisoner health, the teaching component of the faculty role is enhanced by having a nursing practice in a prison setting. Nursing research questions can be generated, although research is not the primary aim of the authors' practice. Thus, a health education program for prisoners provides fertile ground for the development of the full faculty role of teaching, practice, and research. Practice in the prison setting contributes to four areas of the teaching component.
1. Contributes to the didactic portion of student learning: The nurse educators experience in the setting contributes to the experiential pool of his/her knowledge to provide examples of atypical nursing situations for the student. Having a nursing practice in the prison, focusing on health promotion, increases nursing knowledge.
2. Provides a possible site for student clinical placement: The prison setting has been shown to be an appropriate place for student clinical experience (Bridges, 1981). Although students do not participate in the authors' practice, it was noted that the prisoners voiced increased feelings of self-worth. Thus, humanizing care was achieved by the authors and could be achieved by student interaction as well (Bridges, 1981). As well as communication and psychomotor skills, the prison setting could also provide the opportunity for the development of teaching skills.
3. Provides the student with a crosscultural experience: By working with prisoners, the student would be exposed to clients from an array of cultural backgrounds; thus, increasing the student's awareness of an American subculture and the role of the nurse educator in such a setting. This could enrich the student nursing experience and enable the student to develop confidence in working with a diverse group of clients.
4. Contributes to the non-nursing curriculum: A seminar, or even a full-length course, could be developed outside of nursing, but taught by nursing faculty on the unique concerns of female prisoners. Such a seminar/course could develop within a women's studies framework, focusing on women's health. Teaching such a topic outside of nursing could serve to better enable the public to identify the expanding role of the nurse and increase their awareness of prisoner health issues.
Maintaining a nursing practice allows the nurse educator to maintain clinical competence (Nettles-Carlson & Friedman, 1985). A prisoner health education program provides an opportunity for the faculty member to refine and develop his/her nursing and teaching skills. Another aspect of nursing practice is the provision of community or public service. Knowledge gained from the program can be implemented by the prisoner while incarcerated and upon release from prison.
Collegia! relations, which play an important part in sustaining faculty motivation and enthusiasm, can be enhanced with such a faculty practice. By both formal and informal ("brown bag lunches," for example) routes, nursing faculty can be made aware of the prison program. This, hopefully, will result in an increased awareness of cross-cultural nursing, the logistics of implementing the faculty practice role, and the subject of prisoner health. An added side feature of this sharing of information is the voluntary recruitment of faculty to participate in teaching health topics to the prisoners. Indeed, the informal route was implemented by the authors resulting in two colleagues effectively participating in the program.
Ultimately, faculty who do implement the practice portion of their role can serve as role models to a generation of nursing students. By practicing their skills and sharing their knowledge with students and peers, the authors believe they have helped establish credibility with students and respect among their colleagues. Finally, the authors' experience has shown that faculty can establish and maintain a unique clinical practice and utilize this experience in the teaching components of the faculty role.
- Bridges, M.J. (1981). Prison - A learning experience. American Journal of Nursing, 81(4), 744-745.
- McDowell, H.M. (1975). Health care in prison: Change in one city's system, leadership at the cell-block level. American Journal of Nursing, 75(3), 423-424.
- Murtha, R. (1975). Health care in prison: Change in one city's system, it started with a director of nursing. American Journal of Nursing, 75(3), 421-422.
- Nettles-Carlson, B. & Friedman, B.J. (1985). Group faculty practice. Nursing Outlook, 33(4), 170-174.