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Gov. Josh Green issued a proclamation recognizing National School Nurse Day on May 8, 2024.

Hawaiʻi Gov. Josh Green recognized National School Nurse Day on May 8, 2024. In a ceremony on May 10, Green presented the proclamation to the Hawaiʻi Keiki: Healthy & Ready to Learn Program, University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing (NAWSON), the Hawaiʻi Department of Education (HIDOE) and the Hawaiʻi Department of Health’s Public Health Nursing Branch. Hawaiʻi Keiki, the state’s largest school nursing program with more than 50 school nurses in public schools, is a collaboration between NAWSON and HIDOE.

hawaii keiki group
Hawaiʻi Keiki: Healthy & Ready to Learn Program Team

School nurses in Hawaiʻi play a vital role in providing essential healthcare services to students, especially in underserved areas. Acting as the primary healthcare providers on campus, they offer crucial medical support to those without insurance or limited access to healthcare facilities. This ensures that students receive timely care and support for their physical, emotional and psychological well-being.

Hawaiʻi Keiki nurses are truly making a difference in the lives of our students,” said Deborah Mattheus, senior practice director for Hawaiʻi Keiki and NAWSON professor. “Our nurses are literally saving lives. They respond to urgent healthcare emergencies, connect students to medical homes and critical support services, and provide health education to the entire school community. I am so proud of all of our nurses and the entire Hawaiʻi Keiki team for the amazing care and aloha they devote to their work. This National School Nurses Day is also very special for our program because we will be celebrating 10 years of our program this upcoming fall.”

Program beginnings, expansion

In 2014, Hawaiʻi Keiki began with four nurses at Title I schools across Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi Island and Kauaʻi. Because of its positive impact, the program quickly grew to include 15 nurse practitioners, each serving a HIDOE complex area. Amid the pandemic in 2020, Hawaiʻi Keiki played a crucial role in providing health resources and COVID-19 testing in collaboration with various partners. They introduced innovative services like a health hotline and telehealth visits, which proved successful and were integrated into the program’s core services, notably benefiting students in rural areas.

school nurse checks on student

The pandemic underscored the vital role of school nurses, leading to a significant expansion of the Hawaiʻi Keiki program from 2020 to 2022. With more than 55 nurse practitioners and registered nurses now employed, student visits to Hawaiʻi Keiki clinics soared from 8,188 to 126,994, marking a 1,451% increase from the 2019–20 to 2022–23 school years. Of these visits, 75% of these students returned to class after their visits. Additionally, in 2022, Hawaiʻi Keiki extended its services to select public charter schools through on-site and telehealth nursing services.

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