Jessica Pearl portrait inside the prison clinic.
Jessica Pearl is a WSU College of Nursing DNP student who has worked for seven years in the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center.
  • Jessica Pearl, DNP candidate, Washington State University College of Nursing.
  • Expects to graduate in 2018 with her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, with the goal of becoming a nurse practitioner.
  • Worked at the Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, a medium-security state prison in Connell, Washington, for the past seven years.

Why a prison?

“I came from working in an ICU. I was ready for something different – and my back was killing me.”

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Why this population?

“I just found it rewarding. There are a lot of complex health issues up there, and a lot of the guys there haven’t had good health care. They don’t have any (health) education and don’t know any better. If you can educate people and treat some of their longstanding issues, when they get out hopefully you’ve helped to make them less of a burden on the health care system outside.”

What’s the work like?

“You do primary care, urgent care, inpatient care – you do everything up there. You’re basically it, and you get a lot of experience.”

Explain your DNP project?

“Hand hygiene among the health care staff at the prison was not what it should be. That environment is like a small, closed city, so any sickness becomes an epidemic. It’s important not to spread germs.” But an audit showed that staff practiced good hand hygiene only 20 percent of the time. Pearl researched best practices and told the staff that using alcohol-based hand sanitizer is more effective than hand-washing using soap and water. And it takes less time for a small staff that can see up to 50 patients a day. She reinforced that with posters reminding staff to practice good hand hygiene. Follow-up audits showed an increase in hand cleaning  that was still evident a month later.