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The Bridge Between Healthcare and Education, School Nurses Help Students Be Healthy and Ready to Learn!

The Bridge Between Healthcare and Education, School Nurses Help Students Be Healthy and Ready to Learn!

Beyond bandaging knees or handing out ice packs, the Redwood City School District (RCSD) nursing team supports student learning and academic progress in a truly holistic way which removes barriers to healthcare access and encourages a healthful school culture.

“When a student comes into our office it’s not just to fix them and send them back to class,” said Phoebe Reid-Chambers, a School Nurse with RCSD for more than a decade. “We look at the whole scope of things.”

Student access to healthcare helps engage students in the educational process, and the RCSD nursing team makes sure that students receive the care they need to be both healthy and academically successful. 

“We have to make sure that students are healthy and ready to learn,” she said. “We have to assess the student from all aspects.” 

Providing access to healthcare services for students depends on each individual student. This could mean discovering that a child’s stomach ache isn’t from illness but rather hunger or anxiety. Or finding that a headache is from a vision issue.

Nurses screen students for various health conditions and refer to appropriate healthcare providers as needed, including physicians, counselors, or psychologists. Care is coordinated with communication between the families, health care providers, and school site so that students have continuity of healthcare.

“Many times the school nurse is the first healthcare provider a student has access to,”  Reid-Chambers said. “The school nurse may be the first person to address a health issue.”

The RCSD nursing staff also participates in Individualized Educational Plans (IEP)/504 teams and assists in developing Individual Health Care Plans (IHP) for students with special medical conditions.

Addressing students’ physical, mental, emotional, and social health and wellness supports a thriving learning environment.

“It’s more than first aid,” she said. “We assess a student from head to toe.” 

Patrinia Redd, RCSD Director of Health and Wellness, added that school nurses conduct diabetes management, organize hearing and vision screening, and provide training to local student nurses. 

“They’re in constant contact with Public Health and they work collaboratively with site administrators,” she said, adding that RCSD nurses were instrumental in every step of COVID-19 response. “They are our first line of defense when meeting health needs.” 

A major source of funding and support for RCSD’s Health and Wellness department comes from a partnership with Sequoia Healthcare District (SHD) and its Healthy Schools Initiative. 

By providing more than one million dollars this year alone, including funding from partnerships, SHD has helped support nursing staff salaries, professional development opportunities, purchases of personal protective equipment, and much more since 2010.

Karen Li, Director of School Health for SHD and former pediatrician, said that supporting nurses is something near and dear to her. 

“Nurses are at rockstar status,” she said. “They have worked broadly to support staff, students, and families. Their work during the pandemic really highlighted the important nature of the work we accomplish together.”

Li reiterated that good health is a crucial part of a successful school career for children, and school nurses are vital to student wellness.

“Health is academic–our team, our mission, and the funding directly impacts student learning,” she said.

“The school nurses are often that first line of support. School nurses are critical. They are professionals. They are health leaders.”