by Dr. Rick Holliday, Deputy Superintendent
The New Hanover County Health Department works with our school system to provide school nurses in our schools, and they are an integral part to the academic success of our students. New Hanover County Schools is pleased to have a positive working relationship with the health department and their school health team.
The role of the school nurse is to maximize in-class time; therefore, improving student achievement. They accomplish this by reducing the incidence of health related absenteeism; eliminating or minimizing health problems, which may impair learning; assisting students and families to create independence in managing their health problems; and connecting families with school and community resources. School nurses educate students and staff, treat sick and injured students, and assist students in managing chronic illness at school. Their role also included disease prevention through various screenings, assist families to obtain care for students and help to control the spread of communicable diseases.
During this formidable flu season, the school nurses have been educating students and staff on the prevention and control of the flu in NHCS. They provide education to the school staff on sanitation practices for classrooms, desks, doorknobs, shared equipment, etc. The school nurses have continued to promote the flu vaccine as the best prevention method. They also recommend the following proven measures to prevent the spread of the flu:
- If flu-like symptoms appear in your child (cough, fever, body aches) keep your child home and consult your medical provider.
- If your child is out with fever do not allow them to return to school until they are fever free for 24 hours without the aid of fever reducing medicines.
- Cover cough and wash hands thoroughly.
- High-risk people (existing medical conditions, pregnancy, immunocompromised) are urged to seek medical attention.
When students are in school and exhibit symptoms, our school nurses have certain protocols in place during this flu season such as:
- Children with fever 100.0 or greater are sent home.
- Children with cough and flu-like symptoms (body aches, fever) are masked and sent home.
- Currently any student coughing, even without fever, is masked in the health room and urged to go home (unless nursing judgment can strongly support otherwise).
- Follow-up calls are made to parents to monitor students’ illnesses and advise when students may return.
Our school nurses are currently monitoring absenteeism related to flu-like illnesses and report higher than normal rates to their supervisor. The nursing supervisor is in constant communication with the N.C. Communicable Disease Branch to report trends and to receive the latest recommendations for control measures. Any additional measures are initiated as needed.
Our school nurses consistently provide education and information via weekly “health minutes” via school broadcasts, web pages, and newsletters and within the classroom. We are thankful for the opportunity to have the wealth of information and service that our school nurses provide to us. The bottom line is to keep students healthy and IN school so that they actively learn and succeed!