Skip to content
Reading time: 3 minutes
group photo of hawaii keiki nurses and staff
Hawaiʻi Keiki nurses and staff.

A program to keep Hawaiʻi’s children healthy and ready to learn by providing access to high quality health and school nursing services in Hawaiʻi’s public schools has earned national recognition.

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Hawaiʻi Keiki: Healthy & Ready to Learn (Hawaiʻi Keiki) Program, a partnership with the Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing and the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education (HIDOE) has been designated as an Edge Runner by the American Academy of Nursing. Edge Runners are evidence-based, nurse-designed models that demonstrate significant clinical, financial, community and policy outcomes with proven sustainability and replicability. These programs highlight nurses’ ingenuity and collaboration in developing new methods to provide care and promote health equity.

nurse checks studentʻs heart rate

Hawaiʻi Keiki enhances and builds school-based health services that screen for treatable health conditions; provide referral to primary health care and patient centered medical home services; prevent and control communicable disease; and provide emergency care for illness or injury.

“This national recognition is a testament to the dedication of our nurses and so many people behind the scenes who are committed to ensuring that public school students in Hawaiʻi have equitable access to health care,” said Deborah Mattheus, senior practice director and dental sealant program director for Hawaiʻi Keiki. “Studies show that students succeed academically when they come to school healthy and ready to learn. Our program puts health care right into the schools. Hawaiʻi Keiki makes sure every child who needs health care, receives it at no cost and regardless of insurance status. In addition, our nurses provide health education and collaborate with community partners to expand health services, such as vision, hearing and dental screenings.”

School-based health services

Since 2014, the program has responded to emerging and ongoing student, school and community needs, as well as funding availability. The Hawaiʻi Keiki RNs (registered nurses) and APRNs (advanced practice registered nurses) are a resource to the entire school community. They lead the coordination of school health services and assist in school wellness promotion and health careers readiness. Hawaiʻi Keiki nurses collaborate with and make referrals to health systems and individual care providers.

dental hygienist applies dental sealant to studentʻs teeth
A Hawaiʻi Keiki dental hygienist prepares a student’s teeth for application of dental sealants.

By utilizing technology such as telehealth, Hawaiʻi Keiki has expanded equitable access to care for physical and mental health needs. A Hawaiʻi Keiki RN can virtually connect a student to a Hawaiʻi Keiki APRN. With the presence of dedicated nurses in schools, it allows principals and teachers to focus on education rather than students’ health care.

“When we created Hawaiʻi Keiki, our goal was to find nurses who would build an academic nurse-led school-based health program from the ground up,” said Mary G. Boland, dean emerita, UH Mānoa Nursing. “We focused on creating a program custom designed for the unique qualities of Hawaiʻi and our public school education system because HIDOE is one system across all islands, separated by geographic distance and size. Hawaiʻi Keiki is currently the largest school-based health program in the state and I am so proud of how the program has grown over the past 9 years. I find deep satisfaction knowing that nurses have truly made a difference in the lives of thousands of Hawaiʻi students.”

Health care delivered the local way

nurse checking studentʻs blood pressure
A Hawaiʻi Keiki registered nurse checks a studentʻs blood pressure

Hawaiʻi Keiki nurses are compassionate and engaged health care providers. Many serve in the communities they were born and raised in, and others travel across the state to communities they have adopted as family. Every school, community and island experiences different challenges and health disparities. Hawaiʻi Keiki nurses adapt and respond to the unique medical, socio-economic and geographic issues for their complex area.

“The Academy is proud to designate unique and solution-oriented initiatives as Edge Runners. The diverse focus of Edge Runner models highlight the wide range of services, vital support, and team-based approaches that the nursing profession provides,” said American Academy of Nursing President Kenneth White. “The Hawaiʻi Keiki: Healthy & Ready to Learn Program applies nurses as innovative change agents who are addressing a specific health care challenge.”

Mattheus will represent the program and be honored at the 2023 Health Policy Conference, taking place October 5–7, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Read more on the nursing website.

Back To Top