M.S.N. Grads Turn Class Assignment into Inmate Teaching Project

While in the B.S.N. program, Sarah Jenkins and Tracy Gibb saw a need in their work community and decided to use a class project as an opportunity to actively address the problem.

Their combined efforts created a teaching project focused on hypertension that has been implemented at the Eastern Correctional Institution of Maryland, where they are both employed. The real-world application of their project now services more than 3,608 inmates. The state of Maryland plans to adopt this program in all of its corrections facilities in 2014.

The teaching model the duo developed involved teaching the basics of hypertension to a unique audience: inmates. Jenkins’ and Gibb’s project was created to effectively meet the needs of their workplace because they were firsthand witnesses of the disconnect between inmates and understanding hypertension.

“Many of the inmates have no idea what hypertension is. You can say the word and they have a blank face. You can even give them papers to read, but many do not comprehend fully why they need to take this medication or how hypertension affects their body,” says Jenkins, currently the Assistant Director of Nurses at Eastern’s annex.

The teaching model explores the what, why, and how for patients by breaking it down into easily digestible parts. This model is in Phase One, as they work for understanding, but will soon expand into why medications work and more. The duo will continue to teach their model to chronic care nurses throughout the state.

Since implementing the teachings for the inmates, the duo was also tapped to increase awareness of hypertension among their co-workers. They participated in screenings and health fairs throughout the summer for other employees and visitors. Employees were able to ask questions and have one-on-one discussions about the effect of hypertension on overall health.

The teaching project was originally created for M.S.N. 7741 Politics and Policy in the Healthcare System class, which both students took because they were enrolled in an accelerated option for obtaining their undergraduate and master’s degrees. The course was designed to develop the students’ capacity to shape systems-level health policy in politically astute ways.

The idea of enhancing quality of life through these projects offers many nursing students an opportunity to reflect on ways to support causes important to them.

Additionally, the success of such a project led Jenkins to continue her degree with Wilmington University as she began her M.S.N. in August 2013.

“Working hands-on in the field, you see the way health care is reversing back to being local and caring,” says Jenkins. She lives this adage as she has completed two stints of nursing trips to Cameroon to design and plan a hospital with a missionaries group.

The pair currently works side-by-side at the correctional facility. Gibb is head of the medical operations of Eastern Correctional Institution. Wu

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