Training van helps prison nurses

( Staffing, space and time constraints have made it difficult to train correctional facility nurses, who specialize in a wide range of medical conditions.

But thanks to a collaboration between the University of Connecticut School of Nursing, the state Department of Correction and the Correctional Managed Health Care ( CMHC) division of the UConn Health Center (UCHC), correctional facility nurses in Connecticut will now have better access to training.

At UConn Monday afternoon, a 40-foot mobile training van was presented during a ribbon-cutting ceremony outside Storrs Hall, where the School of Nursing is located.

” We look forward to the second and third van, but for the time being, this is a major start,” said UConn Interim Provost Mun Choi.

The van, training and equipment are funded by a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services.

It is the only correctional nursing simulation van in the country.

Training van helps coach prison nurses

High-tech mannequins and other equipment are used in the vehicle to practice medical treatments.

Each nurse will be videotaped as they are training and the tapes will later be reviewed in a debriefing room. UConn faculty members will lead the training.

“Nurses have always used simulation tools, from the very beginning,” said UConn School of Nursing Interim Dean and professor Regina Cusson.

Nurses receive continuing education credits upon completion of the mobile training.

” It’s not only convenient, but you make sure all the nurses are getting the same message,” Cusson said.

The arrival of the van coincides with the 75th anniversary of the nursing school, which recently opened the Carolyn Ladd Widmer Wing in Storrs Hall.

The wing features a collection of nursing artifacts from different time periods.

Desiree Diaz, director of simulation and clinical resource laboratories in the UConnSchool of Nursing, led individuals on a tour of the van.

The mannequin, as all observed, performs various different bodily functions and often “comments” on his physical condition.

“It creates a very interactive feel for him,” said Diaz. “They (mannequins) can simulate any kind of emergency.”

Connie Weiskopf, director of nursing and patient-care services in the UCHC Correctional Managed Health Care, said the opportunities the van presents are “limitless” and the vehicle is a “training director’s dream.”

The vehicle will travel to all 16 correctional facilities in the state.

These facilities provide health care for approximately 18,700 people who are incarcerated or in halfway homes, according to a press release issued by UConn.

This includes mental health, pharmacy and dental, as well as other forms of medical care.

“This is the first project of its kind designed specifically for correctional facility nurses,” said Deborah Shelton, a professor in theUConn School of Nursing.

There are 17 advanced practice registered nurses, 206 registered nurses, 113 licensed practical nurses, 22 nurse clinicians, 18 nursing supervisors and 63 per diem nurses employed by CMHC.

The van will address numerous problems, including limited staffing, space and time constraints of correctional facility nurses, who must be trained in a variety of specialties.

It also will help increase the quality of care and the retention of correctional facility nurses, as well as result in lower medical costs.

According to a press release issued by UConn, almost half of the state’s inmates were on medications as of June 2011 and a medical and mental health screening is required of every newly admitted individual.

“They have the right to health care that meets the standards set in the United States,” said Cusson, referring to the prisoners.

For many, the van is a dream come true.

“Thank you for bringing this good work here to fruition,” said Cusson, speaking to individuals involved with the project.