When you think of a school nurse, you may imagine a cheery, young health professional whose day consists of waiting for the random child to come into the nurse’s office needing their temperature taken, maybe aspirin for a headache, or a skinned knee from the playground cleaned and bandaged. Perhaps if the child is deemed sick and potentially contagious, the nurse may call the child’s parent(s) to come and pick them up from school. The stakes in these instances seem relatively low, so it is no wonder that when faced with budget cuts, schools look at the full time registered nurse as an unnecessary expense. They may instead train someone in the office on basic triage and transfer the responsibility for minor ailments to teachers as well.
But are the savings worth the true cost?
The truth is, the role of the school nurse has changed dramatically over time. According to a recent cost-benefit study of school nursing services,
“During the past few decades, several major changes in our society have greatly increased the demand for school nursing services, including a rise in the number of students with chronic health conditions and mental health problems, an increase in the number of students with special care needs, and improved medical technology. As a result, school nursing services have expanded greatly from their original focus of reducing communicable disease–related absenteeism to providing episodic care, managing chronic health conditions, caring for students with disabilities, promoting health behaviors, enrolling children in health insurance and connecting them with health care providers, tracking communicable diseases, and handling medical emergencies.”
Given this, if today’s educational environment and student needs require access to a nurse’s presence at school and the financial state of the school or district cannot support a full-time nurse, what is a responsible school to do?
Today 45% of schools in the US have a full-time nurse, yet only 25% have no nurse at all. So what are the other 30% of schools doing? They either have a part-time nurse or they share a nurse between multiple schools or campuses.
Sharing a nurse across multiple schools can be challenging. In districts where the schools may be close geographically, there is time spent traveling back and forth and given Murphy’s law, I could almost guarantee that in emergency situations, the nurse is most likely at the wrong campus when the event occurs.
In more remote or rural areas, where the district may be a whole county or multiple counties, travel between campuses on a day to day basis may be physically impossible. In these situations, if the school cannot afford dedicated nurses, they either opt out of having a nurse altogether or parents just have to hope their child only needs a nurse at school on Tuesday.
So whether you are a school that currently shares a nurse looking for more efficiency, a school that has opted out of a nurse altogether because there are not sufficient funds and sharing is nearly impossible, or even one of the 45% of schools that currently has a full-time nurse but may be forced by budgetary cuts to reconsider that cost, there is something you should be looking at… telemedicine.
Telemedicine can greatly increase the efficiency of sharing a nurse between schools by eliminating the need for travel between locations. In districts with schools that are close together, this eliminates the time and expense of traveling constantly between locations. In places where schools are far apart, this may mean access to a nurse where none was ever available before.
Telemedicine allows schools to make a small one time investment in video teleconferencing technology like high definition cameras and video monitors to facilitate real time, face to face conversations between students and nursing professionals. Enhanced systems could also utilize relatively inexpensive biometric hardware like heart rate and temperature sensors allowing nurses to collect current vitals from the students that they are looking at and talking to, greatly increasing the quality of care prescribed.
The ability to record and store these nurse-student encounters also provides the district a record of mental health counseling and medical treatments. When combined with access to the students’ Electronic Health Records (EHRs), this also helps mitigate any liability the school or district may have in providing these healthcare services to students.
Telemedicine in the school nurse’s office may just be the way to help schools with full-time nurses reduce costs without sacrificing the health of their students, a path to increased efficiency and better quality of care in schools that share nurses, and a way for those who could never afford a nurse to get access to one. Given that the health of our children is at stake, it’s definitely an investment worth making.
Avidex AV is revolutionizing the way healthcare facilities and doctors are delivering care. Their 20 years of experience is being leveraged to drive down the cost of care while promoting positive healthcare outcomes. Is your organization looking for a new kind of technology partner? Connect with one of our Account Executives today to learn more.
About Bob Higginbotham
Bob Higginbotham, CTS-I, CTS-D, is the Avidex National Manager of Healthcare AV. Bob has spent his 30 year career in leadership positions in the AV industry including extensive design and build work in healthcare facilities. He owned and operated a successful AV business in Texas with multiple offices in several cities where he managed a staff of over 100 employees. Bob has served as a technical consultant for a major AV manufacturer, led the technical sales team for a national video conferencing provider and provided technology auditing services for several private education facilities. He has a unique working knowledge of audiovisual technology as well as multiple certifications in audio engineering, acoustics, AV design, CQT system commissioning and video transmission systems. Bob holds a BA in communications and has recently served as board chair for a large private school. He brings his years of technical knowledge and leadership experience to Avidex where he leads the national healthcare AV team. Contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org