School nurses play a multifaceted role in supporting students and communities with their health needs and this is just one of their many responsibilities. They serve in a pivotal role that bridges healthcare and education. Most key responsibilities of school nurses have risen as a response to the local need. School nurses are part of several school health activities like combatting chronic absenteeism, physical and mental health care, health promotion, educating staff, attending child protection conferences, administering vaccinations, and addressing bullying issues.
- Health promotion (96%)
- Educating school staff (94%)
- Attending child protection conferences (82%)
- Administering vaccinations (73%)
- Addressing bullying issues (65%)
Besides providing emergency care, school nurses also
- Act as case managers for students’ continuing health care needs at school
- Coordinate height, weight, vision, hearing, and dental screenings
- Administer medications
- Perform procedures and assessments
- Communicate with health care providers, therapists, parents, and school staff
- Provide health education to students, school personnel, and families
- Provide a career shadowing experience for nursing students
Challenges of school nurses
When a school nurse is present to meet student healthcare needs, parents and school administrators know that children and youth can focus on learning. Despite being a motivated and dedicated workforce, school nurses face multiple challenges in a school setting.
NASN data shows only 39% of public schools have a school nurse all day, 35% have a school nurse who works part-time, leaving 25% of schools without a full-time school nurse. The most frequently reported school-based challenges school nurses face are having limited resources and a high caseload. They also faced barriers like communication challenges, multiple documentation requirements, conflicting needs and points of view, and working in isolation.
Limited resources and a high caseload: School nurses are heavily dependent on the school’s budget and resources when it comes to providing healthcare. The department is a small fraction of the school’s budgetary concerns. When working in a limited budget and high caseloads, school nurses may have to adjust their approach to healthcare.
Communication challenges: School nurses sometimes face challenges in communicating effectively with school administration, parents, doctors, pharmacies, health care bodies regarding student health because they have too many priorities and limited resources that enable them to meet these expectations.
Multiple documentation requirements: School nurses have the responsibility of updating student health records and maintaining them. This isn’t an easy task and can be time-consuming to the extent that it keeps them from doing what they were meant to do – taking care of students and communities.
Conflicting needs and points of view: Providing healthcare is not the primary objective in an academic environment. School nurses must contend with competing interests and points of view when caring for students in a school setting. In certain instances, while nurses would recommend that a child’s healthcare be prioritized, school administrators may want to keep a student in school instead of addressing their healthcare needs.
Working in isolation: School nurses will work in relative isolation as compared to the traditional healthcare environment. They’ll no longer be able to depend on the advice and support or colleagues. In some cases, school nurses are the only healthcare professional on the campus, which can create feelings of loneliness and seclusion.
Overcoming the challenges
While the disciple of school nursing has come a long way, there is much there is to be done for their betterment. The NASN recently submitted a petition for funding 10,000 school nurses to join for the upcoming school year. The school nurse is more important than ever and expanding their presence in the school setting is essential. They help students grow and thrive. And a professional school nurse is needed for every school because school nursing is the foundation of students’ physical and mental health.
To support them in their activities, they need infrastructure that enables them to do their best work. School nurses must be an integral part of school healthcare policy creation and amendments because they are actively involved in student healthcare and would be able to provide expert suggestions for improving the health of the student community. School nurses need to work in collaboration with school administration and faculty to ensure student health is given due priority. They also need to educate the teaching community about the dangers of overlooking unusual student behavior and student health concerns, and why it needs to be addressed for the student’s overall health.
School nurses also need to be familiarized with digital health records systems to simplify student health documentation requirements. They need to be relieved of the paperwork and enabled with digital systems that simplify medicine administration, immunization tracking, and more. EduHealth is a comprehensive educational healthcare solution for school nurses to collect, track, and manage student health information. Designed by school nurses, it has features connecting the entire schooling community of students, parents, administrators, school nurses, and more. Nurses can access student health history and immunization and health-related documents in a single button click, making their jobs and lives infinitely easier.
EduHealth also enables easy communication with the healthcare community during student health emergencies. The portal allows them to connect with doctors and pharmacies. This simple solution allows them to overcome several challenges related to student health-related documentations, communication with schooling and healthcare community, medicine administration, medical history record maintenance. And enables them to spend more time doing their jobs and caring for students.
Schools nurses contribution to the well being of students must not be overlooked
School nurses play an important role in the health and wellbeing of children, with a broad range of duties, from health promotion to support individual pupils with specific conditions. The work of school nurses is essential in supporting children to have a full, active and healthy school life. With such an important role to play, it is vital that more school nurses are recruited and given the given the necessary power and infrastructure to ensure they have the capacity to making the positive contribution to children’s health. EduHealth is a tool that enables them to achieve this.