I performed an independent observation in Garfield High School in New Jersey, which was a community site of my interest. I aimed at exploring the role of the nurse in the school setting and the issues that the nurse encountered there. To accomplish this goal, I went to Garfield High School and interviewed their school nurse. I found out about school nurses’ responsibilities, as well as educational, experiential, and skill requirements.
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This observational experience is relevant to community health class because school nurses have a direct relationship with community health. Schools are public places attended by many children and adolescents, so the target of school nurses’ service is to promote health among this segment of the population. The care focus of the school nurse in Garfield High School, as well as in many other schools, is primary prevention. The nurse educates students about various communicable diseases and encourages them to adhere to basic hygiene. Sometimes, the nurse is involved in secondary prevention by assessing students’ state, observing early signs of various diseases, or giving first aid in case of emergency. As a rule, tertiary prevention is rare, but if there is a need, the school nurse assists students by administering the necessary medications or performing procedures, for example, giving insulin injections to a student with diabetes.
The major role of the high school nurse is to meet the health care needs of students and ensure that health issues do not prevent them from getting an education and develop socially. The responsibilities of school nurses include educating students about healthy lifestyles and disease-preventing behaviors. Furthermore, school nurses have to control immunization rates among students and prevent the spread of infections within the school community. Since school nurses are aware of healthcare facilities available in their towns, they can recommend them to parents whose children need medical aid.
The nurse in Garfield High School is qualified as a registered nurse and a certified school nurse, which is the generally required level of education for school nurses. To become a school nurse, one should get a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, pass the NCLEX-RN exam, and obtain the School Nurse Certificate. Furthermore, to be admitted to work, a school nurse must have at least 1,000 hours of clinical experience. Apart from medical skills, school nurses should be patient and pay attention to details since it can help them to notice early signs of different diseases. The role of school nurses is independent and autonomous since they have to make crucial decisions on their own, without the help of a supervising doctor. Therefore, decisiveness, profound medical knowledge, and self-confidence are essential qualities of school nurses.
The major issues of nurses in school settings are related to the fact that health care is not the primary concern of educational institutions. For this reason, nurses often have to deal with the problem of scarce resources because schools are more interested in buying learning materials than things needed for health promotion. For the same reason, nurses face the problem of conflicting interests, for example, when they exclude a sick student from school and encounter the objections of his or her parents. In my opinion, the role of school nurses would be more effective if the community, especially the school administration and parents, realized the importance of disease prevention and health promotion for students. If there were fewer obstacles to school nurses’ work, the educational goals of schools could be fulfilled better due to the increased attendance of students.
I found this observational experience beneficial for me since it made me realize that school nurses were a significant liaison among students, their parents, the community, and healthcare services. I was struck by the responsibility that lay on school nurses because they had to make important decisions without advice and support from their colleagues. I also found it surprising that nurses should consider cultural differences in their work. A failure to understand and accept the cultural diversity of students prevents nurses from effectively providing health care.