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Students Witness Life in a Prison’s Psychiatric Inpatient Facility

March 20, 2014

Students from the Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Program (PMHNP) at the College of Nursing and Health Professions were invited to tour the Philadelphia Prison System on February 18 during their On Campus Intensive (OCI) days.  MHM Services, Inc., one of the largest mental health providers to jails and prisons throughout eleven states nationwide, has agreed to provide Drexel’s PMHNP students opportunities to complete clinical hours and experiences within their system.

The Philadelphia Prison System manages six major correctional facilities in Northeast Philadelphia. The tour was provided by Jacob Widroff, MD, Director of Psychiatric Services, MHM Services; Vikkie Schill, MHM Services; and Jim Sheffer, MHM Services. Students toured two of these six facilities with their professor, Dana Murphy-Parker, and two clinical adjunct faculty members, Elizabeth Lynch and Janet Somlyay. One of the facilities housed the inpatient psychiatric services for the inmates.

The visiting group was treated to lunch after the tour with two PMHNPs currently employed at the Prison who discussed their experiences working with this population. This population poses many unique challenges, as MHM reports that 56% of state prisoners and 64% of local jail inmates report symptoms of mental health disorders.

The enthusiasm and feedback from the students was extremely positive following this unique opportunity. “It was absolutely an awesome experience to be able to be inside and so close to the happenings that occur in the Prison System,” said Chien Yin Cepeda, one of the PMHNP students on the tour.

Her classmate Barbara Cain said, “It was an amazing experience that opened my eyes to even more possibilities for NPs today and in the future.”

One student from the tour group plans to do clinical hours in the Prison System this spring.