Clinical placements in correctional settings offer nursing students unique opportunities for learning mental health and community health concepts, including social justice, restorative justice and the impact of poverty and marginalization on health and life choices. Although there is some evidence to suggest that a small number of nursing programs use clinical placements in correctional settings, relatively little scholarly literature addresses nursing education in such settings, or the implications for nursing leadership when students do have an opportunity to learn in correctional settings. In this paper, we examine the literature that is available on this topic and present the findings of a secondary analysis of interviews with undergraduate nursing students at our nursing program in relation to their clinical placements in correctional settings. Drawing on the students’ perspectives, we have found that these placements, in particular, have fostered learning about caring for marginalized populations; themes of hope and restorative justice featured prominently in their descriptions of their learning. Students also emphasized that they learned a great deal about the expanded role of nurses and about caring for marginalized populations. With strong administrative and faculty support, these settings offer students exposure to expert registered nurse mentors who work with clients in an expanded role to facilitate their achievement and stabilization of a broad range of health challenges. They are also role models for students, by showing students that nurses can be agents of hope when working with a diverse client population and their families. We offer recommendations on how to maximize student learning in correctional settings, including a reflection on how to support students’ integration of their learning experiences in their nursing practice, with the long-term view that these transformative student experiences have the potential to shape our future nurse leaders.
Landa Terblanche and Sheryl Reimer-Kirkham
Nursing Leadership 33(1) March 2020