School Nurses: The Intersection of Health and Education

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"It's the everyday interactions you have with kids as a nurse that builds the continuity of care, and then they perform better," said panelist Thomas Stinson, a school nurse and member of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers. "The role we play is hard to explain, and sometimes administration doesn't see the impact of school nurses." he said. 
 
The session, titled "Gauging the Impact of School-Based Healthcare on Students’ Health, Well-Being and Educational Outcomes," focused on recent studies of the costs and benefits of school nurses. Panelists agreed that the collection of nurse-generated data may encourage additional research that ultimately could strengthen policies at the federal and state levels concerning school health services.
 
Click here for the Journal of the American Medical Association's cost benefit study.
 
"It's essential for school nurses and other stakeholders to know the data about what school health can do and the outcomes you can expect from it," said Martha Bergren, a clinical associate professor at the University of Illinois-Chicago College of Nursing. Bergren is also the lead author of a study on the feasibility of collecting school nurse data, which was sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute. 
 
Click here for the Shanker Institute's school nurses study.
 
Terri Wright, director of the Center for School, Health and Education and the APHA's Center for Public Health Policy, agreed. "Parents and students are the best messengers for the work that you do. We must enlist them to share their experience and let them carry their own message."
 
The bottom line, says Wright, is that schools need a school nurse and a school-based health center -- particularly in communities with high degrees of poverty and under-resourced schools and communities. "It takes school-based health centers and school nurses to make a difference," Wright noted. "Together, they are at the intersection of health and education."
 
Members of AFT Connecticut affiliated unions have for years advocated for policies at the state level that would empower them to keep their students in school and ready to learn. In 2013 we successfully advocated for establishment of a formal council to advise the public health and education departments on school nurses' health services, professional development needs and staffing levels.
 
Click here to learn more about the School Nurse Advisory Council.
 
One of the key recommendations from the council's 2014 report was the requirement for districts to have at least one school nurse for every 750 students. Legislation that would have implemented this minimum staffing ratio passed both chambers of the General Assembly with strong bipartisan support during the 2015 regular session.
 
Despite the desperately inadequate school nurse staffing levels in public schools across Connecticut, Governor Dannel Malloy last Wednesday vetoed H.B. 6796. In his official statement, the governor expressed concerns regarding the legislation's waiver language, signaling a willingness to sign a new version of the measure into law in the next session.