Telehealth Supports School Nurse Practice
Children learn best when they’re healthy. In many schools across the U.S., budget cuts have led to the reduction in school nurse jobs, leaving those that remain responsible for children at 3 or 4 schools. Although some schools have LPNs and CNAs to assist, this is a luxury, because some schools don’t even have a student nurse, period. This is because the accepted standard nurse to student ratio is 1:750, but that standard is not being met across the U.S. While schools are laying off nurses, the medical needs of children are increasing in frequency and severity.
School Nurses Play a Vital Role in the Healthcare Ecosystem
School nurses work with love and devotion throughout the school year despite the pay and work conditions. In addition to hearing and vision tests, dental hygiene, scoliosis and lice, they’re always on the lookout, protecting our children from disease and viruses. They give critical medicines to diabetic and epileptic children, and provide tube feedings and catheter changes, so even the sickest kids can avoid risks during the school day, feel healthier, and learn more.
Other services school nurses deliver include but are not limited to:
- Mental health counseling
- Substance abuse prevention and treatment
- Reproductive health education
- Prenatal and parental education
- Consult with parents and doctors
- Develop and manage care plans
- Teach school staff CPR, First-Aid, and medication administration
- Deliver acute care to teachers and other staff
- Conduct data collection and report to regulators
- Develop educational programs
- Prevent food allergy risks
- Respond to emergencies
Our school nurses are not equipped with capes and super powers, yet they are expected to accomplish all these responsibilities with inadequate resources. Nurses are maxed out trying to manage and maintain records of students at multiple sites on top of their other administrative duties. I mean the principal’s assistant is giving pain medicine and antibiotics to children! These circumstances are putting the safety of our children, the liabilities to the school system, and security of scarce school nursing licences on the line.
How Telehealth is Used In School Nursing
Telehealth enables school nurses to interact with parents and providers at the same time, without the need for transportation. Parents can stay at work and nurses can conduct group video-conferences with the parent and physician. Parents provide a history, and the nurse presents vital sign information to the doctor. The nurse also helps the doctor examine the patient through the use of high definition cameras and connected scopes. The system pictured was built by NuPhysicia (diy.nuphysicia.com), and installed in the Children’s Health of Dallas.
Many times, the doctor is able to make a diagnosis and order a prescription to the pharmacy, for the parent to pick up on their way home from work. Virtual visits are shown to be just as good as in-person and many kids get to return to class rather than missing school for the rest of the day. The fact that their parent is present also makes them feel more comfortable.
In school districts where one nurse oversees multiple sites, instead of physically travelling for meetings and rounds, telehealth technologies allow nurses to interface with their superiors and subordinates remotely. If no nurse is on site, a trained professional at the remote site (LPN, CNA, MA) can use these digital tools to present sick students to a nurse or other provider.
Benefits of Telehealth in Schools
There are many cases in which telehealth can be applied to increase efficiencies in the delivery of school-based care; including chronic disease management, fevers, rashes, sick tummies, and counseling. Also, administration meetings can be more effective and less time consuming when all attendees can join from their workstations rather than driving across town. These tools are especially useful in rural school districts, where the nearest doctor or hospital can be located hours away by car.
There are many socioeconomic benefits of using telehealth technologies in schools.
In this economy, many children are homeless. The school nurse is the only route to health care for these children, and nurses can use telehealth to bring primary care, mental health, and social services specialists to the child in the school. Telehealth provides convenient access to quality medical care, reduced emergency room visits, more frequent visits for chronically ill students, and less absenteeism for all children.
Does Your School Have a Telehealth Program?
If you answered yes, then I would really appreciate your comments and any success stories you are willing to share! If no, then I encourage you learn more and become a Telehealth Champion. Whether you’re a parent or a provider, learn more about telehealth, discuss it with your decision makers. Advocate for better health outcomes, with less absenteeism and more effective care coordination. Like you, we care about health care delivery in our nation’s schools. If you want to learn more about telehealth program development, we would love to talk to you! Making an appointment is easy! Just follow the link to our online calendar and select the date and time that’s best for you! You can schedule with either Aneel or Heather. Please visit our website www.imsttelehealth.com to learn about our company and our program development process.
It’s our mission at IMST Telehealth Consulting to help organizations embrace telehealth with confidence and clarity. You can count on our knowledge and expertise, because we are nationally certified Telehealth professionals. We stay on top of telehealth legislation, reimbursement models, and the latest in technology. We’ll work with you and your team step-by-step to develop a successful program that’s based on evidence, quality, and value; with the ability to measure and monitor performance.