My Turn, Sharon Beck: Nurses advocate for students

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 7, 2018

On Wednesday, May 9, we will be recognizing the work of Rowan-Salisbury School System’s 12 school nurses by celebrating National School Nurse Day. The National theme this year is, School Nurses: Advocates for 21st Century Student Health.

The school nurse is an active partner in the educational setting who many times works behind the scene to maximize access to the school setting for students with special health care needs. This planning allows parents to send their children to school with the peace of mind that they will remain healthy, safe and ready to learn.

Given that today’s children face more chronic health illnesses (e.g. asthma, diabetes, food allergies, mental health, etc.) than ever before, we take our role as a licensed, professional school nurse very seriously. The school nurse has knowledge, assessment skills and judgment to help ensure that quality health care is provided to children while at school.

We are grateful for the teachers, administrators, and professional support staff with whom we work each day. Together we work to create a healthy learning environment for every child in each and every school within the RSSS District.

For many children, the school nurse is the only health professional they may have access to, except in emergencies. This becomes even more important as chronic social, emotional and other health problems keep increasing.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), asthma is the leading chronic illness among children and adolescents in the United States. On average, in a classroom of 30 children, about three are likely to have asthma. Today, approximately one in every 400 children and adolescents has type 1 or type 2 diabetes. According to a study released in 2013 by the CDC, food allergies among children increased approximately 50 percent between 1997 and 2011. During the 2016-17 school year, data for chronic health conditions made known by Rowan Salisbury School parents indicated 962 students with asthma, 68 students with type 1 or type 2 diabetes and 365 with severe allergies.

The school nurse role in chronic disease and health management is to develop, implement and monitor Individualized Healthcare Plans for these students.

It is common knowledge that healthier students are better learners. Now there is evidence-based research in fields ranging from neuroscience and child development to epidemiology and public health to support this argument.

As school nurses, we advocate for the health of our children. We are encouraged that the state is discussing the need for more school nurses.

We know more school nurses are needed to improve the health and well-being outcomes of all children. By funding school health programs, it ensures our children have a successful, productive and healthy future ahead of them.

Sharon H. Beck is the lead school nurse for Rowan Salisbury Schools.