School nurses are key to better student health

New assessment tool and professional resources help schools care for students

March 24, 2014 College News - The Determining the Status of Wisconsin School Health Services project began in 2007 with a Development award from the Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program (HWPP). HWPP is a component of the Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin endowment, a fund stewarded by the Medical College of Wisconsin to achieve the mission of improving the health of the people of Wisconsin.

 “This project was initiated because there was grassroots interest in improving school health services in Wisconsin,” Sarah Beversdorf, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Public Health Association (WPHA), said.

The support from HWPP enabled Beversdorf and her partners* to collect statewide input on how to best assess the opportunities for improving Wisconsin’s school health services.

The project partners used the results of the first project to inform a two-step strategy to improve school health services: develop a comprehensive statewide self-assessment tool for school districts along with an individualized improvement plan and resources that address identified gaps.

With support from a 2011 HWPP Impact award, the partners developed and disseminated the survey. After a month, 117 of 423 districts had finished the assessment.

“The response rate was reasonably high,” said Marie Wolff, PhD, Associate Professor of Family and Community Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin and the project’s academic partner. “People were willing to take the time to complete a lengthy survey because they saw this as a pressing need.”

Users of the assessment reported that it was a valuable tool.

“Overwhelmingly, the people who responded said that it was well worth their time,” Teresa DuChateau, WPHA’s School Nurse Resource Coordinator, said.

After the assessment tool was completed, the project partners began working on creating new resources to help school nurses and administrators implement and update policies and procedures and improve practices.

The project partners first developed best practices guidelines on major school nursing issues to synthesize current research in a user-friendly format.

In addition, the project partners saw the need for a training resource that would also help nurses adapt clinical procedures to the school setting.

“We created a mobile website that allowed for statewide access to common school nursing procedures,” DuChateau said.

As with the assessment, the project partners have heard from stakeholders throughout the state that these resources are meeting school districts’ needs and helping Wisconsin’s school nurses assure outstanding care and make schools, and students, healthier.

In honor of MCW’s 120th anniversary, we will be sharing stories like this one that highlight the College’s contributions to creating healthier communities. A new web page commemorating MCW’s 120th Anniversary includes links to a display of milestones in our history and a list of nearly 200 significant research discoveries made by faculty physicians and scientists throughout the years.  These discoveries have saved lives and improved health in our community, in Wisconsin and beyond.

*Partners include the Medical College of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Public Health Association, the Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments and Boards, the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction and the Association of School Nurses.

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