Submitted by: Dr. Lynn Heard, DNP/CSN, School Nurse, North Pocono School District
Back to school season is upon us! It's time to get organized and ensure your child is ready for a successful school year. One important part of preparing for back to school is understanding the role of the school nurse and the value they bring to the educational experience. School nurses are committed to keeping students healthy and safe, and, with the support of parents and caregivers, they can help your child have a great year. Here are five things you should keep in mind as you prepare for back to school.
First, remember that the school nurse is a highly-trained resource. If you have any questions or concerns about your child's health, don't hesitate to reach out to the nurse. They can offer guidance and support on everything from managing chronic conditions to dealing with minor illnesses and injuries. School nurses also provide in-school vision and hearing screenings and can even refer or connect students to longer-term healthcare services.
Second, keep up with immunizations, preventive healthcare, and dental visits. Children entering certain grades are required by the state to have mandated health services — not just vaccines, but medical exams, dental exams and scoliosis screens. Make sure your child is up-to-date before the start of the school year. If you haven’t already done so, call your healthcare provider now to ensure your child can be scheduled for a visit in the next few weeks. Check out www.health.pa.gov for details about state-mandated health requirements, or ask your child’s healthcare provider.
Third, make sure your child has a regular doctor/healthcare provider and dentist they can see for routine check-ups and sick visits. Regular preventive care visits are key to identifying and addressing a health issue before it becomes a crisis. A consistent provider can help better understand your child’s health over time and relay important information to your child’s school nurse. If you need help finding a doctor, healthcare provider or dentist in your community, ask us!
Fourth, keep your school nurse in the loop. Along with teachers, school nurses are an integral part of the health care team and educational experience. If you communicate with your child's teacher via email, copy your school nurse if applicable. Along with notifying the school nurse about health changes like medication adjustments or a medical diagnosis, big life events can also affect a student's overall mental health, wellbeing, and life choices. Let your school nurse know about life events like a change in family structure (marriage or divorce), death of a pet, struggles with peer pressure, etc. Your child's school nurse can provide better care if they're aware of the big picture in a student's life.
Student health is like a jigsaw puzzle. The finished picture looks completely different if even a few pieces are missing! Your school nurse wants to hear from you, so consider an email or a quick phone call if something big — or small — is going on.
Finally, please keep your child home from school when they are sick. We know the past two years have been exceptionally difficult for parents, and school nurses are so appreciative of the collective efforts of so many. But we aren't out of the woods yet. Keeping a sick child home rather than dosing them with medicine to get through the day also helps them recover more quickly and prevents the spread of illness to other students.
The start of the school year is a new beginning. It's also the perfect time to reach out to your child's school nurse, initiate a connection, and be aware of the ways your child’s school nurse is an active advocate for student health — and the health of our overall community.
Download our quick checklist of 10 ways to help your child have a healthy school year.