About the Program
As part of the Section of Women’s, Children’s, and Family Health’s commitment to all children in the State of Alaska regardless of their health status or special needs, the School Nursing/School Health Services Program supports comprehensive school health services ideally provided by professional school nurses. Over 130,000 children attend Alaska’s 54 public school districts. Federal laws mandate that each child has a right to a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment. (IDEIA, ADA, § 504) In every school there are children who are in optimal health and those who are challenged by acute or chronic health conditions and/or special health care needs. A student’s health status is directly related to his or her ability to learn. Children with unmet health needs have a difficult time engaging in the educational process. School health services are those services that improve the health and well-being of children, identify and prevent health problems, ensure care for students and minimize barriers to learning. School health services include:
- Provide acute, chronic and emergency care for illness/injury;
- Prevent, monitor and control spread of communicable disease and other health problems;
- Screen for health problems that may interfere with educational achievement;
- Ensure access and referral to primary health care services;
- Promote optimum conditions for safe school facility and school environment;
- Provide education and counseling for a variety of health and wellness topics; and
- Serve as a medical resource in the development of policies and procedures in the school.
School Nursing Services
The school nurse is the professional who serves in a pivotal role to provide expertise and oversight of the provision of school health services and to address barriers to learning. School nurses serve as an extension of the public health system. They support student success by providing health care assessment, intervention, and follow-up for all children within the school setting.
School nursing, a specialized practice of public health nursing, protects and promotes student health, facilitates normal development, and advances academic success. School nurses, grounded in evidence-based and ethical practice, are the leaders that bridge healthcare and education, provide care coordination, advocate for quality student-centered care, and collaborate to design systems that allow individuals and communities to develop their full potentials. (National Association of School Nurses, 2016)
School attendance is linked to academic success and graduation rates. A higher nurse to student ratio is associated with better attendance rates. School nurses improve attendance through health promotion, disease prevention and disease management. Students with a full-time school nurse have about half the student illness- or injury-related early releases as students from a school where no school nurse is present. (Pennington & Delaney 2008, Wyman 2005) More time in the classroom provides more time for learning and increases a student’s chance for success. School nurses keep students in school where they can learn.
School Health Nurse Consultant
To assist school nurses and school districts in the provision of a healthy and safe learning environment, the Section of Women’s, Children’s, and Family Health supports a School Health Nurse Consultant within the Division of Public Health. The School Health Nurse Consultant provides clinical consultation, technical assistance, policy development and analysis, and research and evaluation of evidence-based practices regarding school health services to school nurses and school districts. Additionally, the School Health Nurse Consultant works with school nurses from across the state to:
- Develop and update guidelines for school health services;
- Formulate school screening guidelines;
- Plan and offer educational opportunities for school nurses; and
- Collect and disseminate data regarding school health services in Alaska.
School Health Nurse Advisory Committee (SHNAC)
The School Health Nurse Advisory Committee (SHNAC) was established in 2010 to provide program direction as well as to address current issues in school nursing practice; to attain consistent school nursing practice across Alaska via the development of guidelines for practice and trainings that reflect best practice and national standards; and to increase the understanding of the role of the school nurse in student success. The committee meets monthly by teleconference or face-to-face and is comprised of school nurses and school nursing administrators/leaders statewide, from both urban and rural Alaska. Others include public health nurses, nursing educators, retired nurses, and other related program staff. Contact the School Health Nurse Consultant for further information or for requests to bring school health issues or projects to this committee.
For More Information
Mary Bell, BSN, RN, NCSN
School Health Nurse Consultant
State of Alaska, Division of Public Health
Section of Women's, Children's, and Family Health
3601 C Street, Suite 322
Anchorage, AK 99503