The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa nursing school and the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education will celebrate National School Nurse Day on Wednesday, May 11. The two state agencies have partnered to place advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) in seven Department of Education complex areas on three islands. With public support from the state legislature and private support from Harold K.L. Castle Foundation, Hawaiʻi Community Foundation, HMSA Foundation, Kaiser Permanante Hawaiʻi and The Queen’s Medical Center, the Hawaiʻi Keiki: Health and Ready to Learn Program is growing.

“We are excited about the growth of our partnerships as we support individual schools to ensure students are healthy and ready to learn,” said Mary G. Boland, UH Mānoa School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene dean. “During the past two years, Hawaiʻi Keiki nurses in schools have surveyed parents about their children’s health needs, coordinated and conducted vision and dental services as well as managed emergencies. Most importantly our nurses have relieved teachers and principals of the responsibility of addressing health concerns and allowed them to focus on teaching.”

School nurses play vital role

Directed by UH Mānoa nursing in partnership with Department of Education administrators, Hawaiʻi Keiki nurses play a pivotal role to improving access and quality of health services in schools by coordinating and expanding existing efforts of the partners and community resources.

“School nurses play a vital role in ensuring the health and well being of our students from overseeing care for medical conditions to treating minor cuts and bruises from playground activities,” said Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi. “In celebration of National School Nurse Day, we’d like to acknowledge and thank the nurses in our schools, as well as our community partners for their commitment to our students by supporting programs like Hawaiʻi Keiki.”

Beginning with the 2016–2017 school year, the program will operate six school-based health centers on Oʻahu and Hawaiʻi Island with services delivered by advanced practice RNs. The goal of the program is to have an advanced practice RN working in each of the 15 Department of Education complex areas statewide. Parents, teachers, insurers and healthcare organizations recognize that the school is the ideal site to optimize access to prevention and treatment services for children and youth.

“School nurses collaborate with students, the school community, families, the healthcare community, the community at large and government agencies so that children are in school, healthy, safe and ready to learn,” said National Association of School Nurses President Beth Mattey. “A professional school nurse is needed in every school to care for every child because school nursing is the foundation for student health.”

The 2016 National School Nurse Day theme is School Nurses: Better Health. Better Learning. This signifies the important role school nurses have in the health of their school communities. Healthy children learn better and school nurses work to remove barriers to learning. It is a specialized field with national certification representing competency in preparation, knowledge and practice as demonstrated by passing an exam after completing 1,000 hours of working in a school. All eligible Hawaiʻi Keiki nurses have achieved this certification status.