WVU nursing student gives lecture to inmates

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University School of Nursing graduate Jessica Pforr of Morgantown fulfilled a graduation requirement by conducting an educational session on Hepatitis C and HIV to inmates at U.S. Penitentiary at Hazelton in Bruceton Mills.

Pforr provided basic information on the diseases and discussed prevention methods tailored to prison environment. She emphasized the need for screening, as well as issues with prison tattoos.

“After talking with many of the inmates, I realized they had no idea about transmission and protection,” Pforr said. “They thought they could tattoo each other and use alcohol swabs to sterilize the needles. That is not the case, so we discussed the many ways they were sterilizing needles and how those methods can still spread these diseases.”

Pforr worked with Hazelton’s Special Investigative Unit to identify and invite leaders of prison gangs to the lecture with the hope that they would take the information back to their gang’s members. Of the more than 2,000 inmates housed at Hazelton, 35 were invited to join the discussion and an additional 15 joined prior to the start of the session.

After an hour of presenting information, Pforr spent an additional 20 minutes answering questions. “I’ve never had a more attentive audience,” she said.

She found it easier to talk with them rather than hand out pamphlets of information; not only to answer their questions, but because many of the inmates cannot read or would simply throw the pamphlets away.

“This project served to solidify the relationship between the Health Sciences Center and the Bureau of Prisons by providing students the opportunity to practice in a state-of-the-art facility that houses a unique population,” Susan Coyle, Ph.D., assistant professor and rural health education coordinator at School of Nursing, said. “In addition, it helps students examine social justice and health policy issues as they impact individuals who are incarcerated but also as they impact society in general.”

The WVU School of Nursing requires students to complete a capstone project in order to graduate. These projects include 45 hours of work in a rural health setting, a needs assessment and the design, implementation and evaluation of a health promotion or disease prevention project that addresses an unmet health need of their population. At the conclusion of the assessment, the student must write a paper describing the process and then design a poster presenting their project.

Pforr graduated from WVU School of Nursing in December.

For more information on the WVU School of Nursing visit www.hsc.wvu.edu/son/.

For more information about Hepatitis C and HIV visit www.cdc.gov/DiseasesConditions/.


For more information:
Amy Johns, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
el: 01-12-10

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