Innovative support for primary care school nurses

Posted on November 30, 2013 by

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School nurse Lori S. Anderson, PhD is the author of our current “Editor’s Pick” article titled “The Development and Implementation of eSchoolCare: A Novel Health Care Support System for School Nurses.”  In this article Dr. Anderson describes the eSchoolCare program that provides support for 97 school nurses in 67 rural school districts in South-Central Wisconsin.  The article provides background, theoretical framework, implementation and evaluation of this innovative project. Dr. Anderson shared for ANS readers her own background in school nursing, and why this project is so important for nurses who are primary care providers in schools, and for the children and families they serve:

My introduction to school nursing came early. My mother was a long-time school nurse and during my high school years I helped her out during vision and hearing screenings. I loved the independence of her work and the focus on improving the health and well being of school-age children. So following suit, my first job fresh out of nursing school was in a rural school system in southern Wisconsin.  I was responsible for 4,500 students in

Dr. Lori Anderson

Dr. Lori Anderson

six separate school buildings. I quickly learned two things, that the downside of the independent practice was a sense of isolation and that while I had hoped to make an impact on the health and wellness of students through teaching and other prevention activities, my time was largely spent caring for children with chronic health issues, some serious. The seeds for the eSchoolCare project were sown during this time. While I could pick up a phone and call my school-nurse-mother for support and expert guidance, many school nurses were and still are left looking for evidence-based resources to guide their practice and for support to decrease the sense of isolation.

Julia Lear, director of the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools at George Washington University, has used the phrase “hidden health care system” to describe the large number of professionals who provide care to children and youth in schools across the United States. Most of these professionals are nurses and the health care needs they attend to are becoming increasingly numerous and complex. The Affordable Care Act encourages community-based services, yet policy makers and those in the traditional health care arena have little knowledge about this “hidden” system of care.

Nurses are also providing care in homes, workplaces, and long-term care facilities, among others. These community settings provide challenges to nurses similar to those encountered in schools, problematic communication with traditional health services, isolation, and difficulty accessing evidence-based resources to guide care. The solution to these complex challenges will be multi-dimensional. But technology now allows us to bring resources and support to nurses in these settings in a way that we had not done before. Our eSchoolCare project uses mobile technology to bring the expertise and resources of an academic healthcare setting to the nurse in the community, decreasing their sense of isolation and providing them with evidence-based approaches to care delivery. Think of it as the online version of having a “mom” nurse expert on the other end of the phone line.

We are eager to hear your comments and ideas about this important project!  Visit the ANS web site now to download your copy of this article at no charge, and share your comments here!

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