December 2015 marked a milestone of 20 years of service for the Fort HealthCare School Nurse Program. The program began in December 1995, serving 2,982 students in Fort Atkinson. Due to the success of the program and the growing demand for coordinated health care within the schools, the program now provides over 10,000 hours of health and wellness services to over 12,186 K-12 students in eight school districts – including Fort Atkinson, Cambridge, Deerfield, Lake Mills, Marshall, Jefferson, Waterloo, and Whitewater.

The efforts that the school districts and local healthcare providers put in place to keep children as healthy as possible and ready to learn extend much further beyond simply applying Band-Aids or ice packs after playground accidents. The impact that this team has on improving population health over time directly supports Fort HealthCare’s Mission to improve the health and well-being of the community, as well as supporting the schools’ collective goals to meet both the academic and health needs of students.

The Fort HealthCare school nurses specialize in diabetes education and care, childhood wellness, and helping to care for children with special health care needs. It is their philosophy to provide education about health and wellness to school age children, school staff, and the community. School nurses provide a wide range of services, including:

  • Early access to care when children’s cognitive development is at its peak; performing early intervention services such as periodic assessments for vision, hearing, and dental problems
  • Developing and participating in partnerships with community providers
  • Providing education and resources for health, wellness and disease prevention
  • Helping to detect outbreaks of communicable diseases
  • School nurses are often members of school-based safety and mental health teams
  • Helping to manage students’ increasingly complex medical conditions and chronic health illnesses
  • Providing training for emergency nursing services of the school, including First Aid and CPR training

The school nurse team consists of 10 registered nurse (RN) and one licensed practical nurse(LPN).   Eight of the ten RN’s earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and one earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with an Associate Degree in Nursing and one has a three year diploma in Nursing. Additional certifications include three of the school Nurses having a National Association of School Nurses and one school nurse has a certification as a Pediatric Nurse . Five of the nine primary RN’s for the districts have received the prestigious clinical Pathway Recognition Award, awarded by the American Nurses Credentialing Center for excellence in service.

Fort HealthCare School Nurse Program Coordinator, Lisa Jensen, RN, BSN, notes, “For many students, school often serves as their initial healthcare provider. If we notice something during a routine health screening, or are able to intervene in an episode of some kind, we can help get that student the help that they need and work with their family to navigate the healthcare system, ultimately developing a care plan that best works for them at school and at home.”

With the changing health needs of students, having qualified healthcare professionals available to deliver preventive health screenings and personalized care is a benefit to both the schools and the students. Improved student attendance paves the way for academic success. With school nurses available to help students with their wellness, school administrative and teaching staff’s time is freer to spend focusing on education.

It is also beneficial that the Fort HealthCare School Nurse Program is very well connected with several existing pediatric health and wellness programs and a full network of care providers in the area. School nurses have access to many hospital and community resources, including pharmacy, education and outreach, community wellness programs, and often a direct line of communication with physicians and medical staff. Jensen adds, “Because of our connection to Fort HealthCare, school nurses can often assist with getting students in to see providers sooner, if necessary, and can help with communication between patients and providers.” School nurses maintain great working relationships with many providers in the area, delivering a direct line of service to students and school employees within Fort HealthCare’s network of care and resources in the community.

In addition to the primary care clinics throughout the region, school nurses can facilitate care with athletic trainers, physical therapists, nutritionists, sports medicine professionals, audiologists and ear, nose, and throat specialists, emergency services, and more. School nurses can even coordinate Business Health opportunities for school employees.

Eric Runez, District Administrator for the Whitewater Unified School District, states, “I cannot say enough wonderful things about the school nurse program.” Runez included his Director of Pupil Services, Lenora Heim, Ph.D., in his positive reflection of the program. Heim states, “Our school nurse is fantastic! I feel tremendously lucky to work with her.” Heim recalled two particularly memorable examples of how the school nurse program helps students in their schools immensely. “One of the many examples I can think of is her support of a family with a medically fragile early childhood student. The school nurse went above and beyond to help the family navigate Medicaid and navigate the process of getting a private duty nurse to support their child. I overheard the child’s mother tell staff at the school that the school nurse was really fantastic and really helped to reduce their family’s level of anxiety as they began to navigate the process of how their child will be supported in school.”

Heim provided two more examples of exemplary service. “When we were working with a family that had a child that needed to have continuous oxygen, she worked with state agencies to help the child be able to be transported on the bus, and prepared the district to have all the proper procedures in place to store and administer oxygen to the student.” Heim continues, “Another example is how our school nurse developed procedures and policies for managing life threatening allergies. She even developed an online training module for the administration of Epinephrine. The Department of Public Instruction was so impressed with the training module that they adopted it for use statewide and have posted it on their website.”

Certainly not all children require strict medical supervision while in school, but the number of students with special healthcare needs has increased significantly nationwide:

  • One in eight students are born premature, a health condition that may require a number of health and academic accommodations throughout their life
  • There is an increased prevalence of chronic health conditions in children, including diabetes, seizures, asthma, heart conditions, and mental health considerations – which carries the largest number of cases per year
  • Changing health and social needs
  • Coordinating care with case managers, who bring providers, families, and schools together
  • Life threatening conditions such as severe allergies
  • Coordinating care for injuries and helping children return to school as soon as possible

 

While the Fort HealthCare School Nurse Program celebrates 20 years of service in December 2015, it is also timely to note that on December 10, 2015, President Obama signed into law the “Every Student Succeeds Act,” or ESSA. The ESSA replaces the “No Child Left Behind Act.” Within ESSA, there is a crucial provision that highlights the important work that school nurses do in chronic disease management. In other words, healthy schools lead to healthy children, which leads to a healthy future.

To learn more about the Fort HealthCare School Nurse Program, visit www.forthealthcare.com/school-nurse-program.

 

Pictured are (left to right): Front row L-R   Kay Wipperfurth –VP Support Services, Sarah Borchert,RN, Waterloo School District, Andrea Davis, RN, Fort Atkinson School District, Karen Buscemi, RN, Marshall School District, Maureen Brandenburg, RN,substitute all districts.    Back row L-R Erin Spears, RN, Cambridge School District, Diana Hoffman, RN., Whitewater Unified School District, Elizabeth Bourke, RN, Deerfield School District, Toni Zastrow, RN., Lake Mills School District, Lynn Zaspel, RN, Jefferson School District, Lisa Jensen, RN, Coordinator School Nurse Program, Sara Noeske, RN, Fort Atkinson School District. Missing from photo Annette Mendoza, LPN, Whitewater Unified School District.

Pictured are (left to right): Front row L-R Kay Wipperfurth –VP Support Services, Sarah Borchert,RN, Waterloo School District, Andrea Davis, RN, Fort Atkinson School District, Karen Buscemi, RN, Marshall School District, Maureen Brandenburg, RN,substitute all districts. Back row L-R Erin Spears, RN, Cambridge School District, Diana Hoffman, RN., Whitewater Unified School District, Elizabeth Bourke, RN, Deerfield School District, Toni Zastrow, RN., Lake Mills School District, Lynn Zaspel, RN, Jefferson School District, Lisa Jensen, RN, Coordinator School Nurse Program, Sara Noeske, RN, Fort Atkinson School District. Missing from photo Annette Mendoza, LPN, Whitewater Unified School District.