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Dean's Blog | August 6, 2019

School nurses rock

Judith Karshmer

School supplies and lesson plans are all part of a successful start to a new academic year for children. But the start of school also means immunizations, health screenings and monitoring the overall health and well-being of the incoming students. All of this and more are on the back-to-school to-do checklists of school nurses.

Schools should be healthy, safe places where children can thrive. That means individual health issues or challenges to wellness that students have at home also must be managed at school. More broadly, what ails communities — violence, poverty, drug abuse epidemics — also shows up on campuses and must be addressed.

For more than a century, school nurses have operated at the busy intersection where complex health care and education systems meet. Their specialized practice of community health advances education goals that require students to be fully present in school and ready to learn. 

The 21st-century school nurse takes a broad-based, student-centered approach to keep children in school. They factor in social determinants of health, such as housing, access to health insurance and environmental health, in addition to handling an increasing load of students with chronic conditions and mental health issues. They manage the care of children with challenging health issues (such as those involving gastrostomy or tracheostomy tubes), while addressing ongoing population health concerns, including obesity and the negative impacts of social media, whether they be concerns about bullying or ever-increasing hours of screen time. 

 More than 50 million public school students in the United States are either back in school or in various stages of preparing for a new school year. School nurses play pivotal roles in helping children stay in school by maintaining healthy environments where students can thrive and learn.