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Formerly the
Rural Assistance Center

Nelson County School Nurse Program

Summary 
  • Need: Low rates of immunization and a lack of knowledge about physical health among school age children in the rural areas of Nelson County, Virginia.
  • Intervention: A School Nurse Program placed a registered nurse in each of the four county public schools to track and encourage immunization compliance, provide health education, and handle students' daily health issues.
  • Results: School-age children are having many of their minor health concerns addressed throughout the day by registered nurses at school. Compliance for childhood immunizations is now extremely high.
Description

In the 1990s, Blue Ridge Medical Center (BRMC) outreach staff completed health screenings in Virginia’s Nelson County public schools. BRMC staff realized that in addition to very low immunization rates, the children lacked basic health knowledge. In order to address these needs, BRMC, the school district and the county health department collaborated. They were awarded a 3-year (1998-2001) Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) Rural Health Care Services Outreach grant to form the Nelson County School Nurse Program.

At the program’s inception, registered nurses were placed in the county’s public schools. Now a registered nurse and a part-time school nurse coordinator are in each of the four county schools.

The Nelson County School Nurse Program is still facilitated through the BRMC, and all of the nurses are BRMC employees. A BRMC Medical Director provides assistance and supervision. Though the nurses are BRMC employees, they are not just located within each school, they are very much a part of each school.

After the original grant expired, the program has continued to receive annual grants from Nelson County. Benefits of this funding are many. One in particular is funding for the School Nurse Program does not compete with funding for extracurricular activities or other budget line item decisions within the school district.

Services offered
  • Assess students’ minor daily health issues such as headaches, fevers, sprains
  • Assist students with chronic disease management as needed
  • Assist staff with minor health needs throughout the school day
  • Administer students' prescription medications needed during the school day
  • Develop individual health plans with assistance of school system personnel
  • Track immunization compliance and encourage parents to follow through with their child’s immunizations
  • Complete health screenings including those for scoliosis, dental issues, height and weight measurements
  • Make referrals on the basis of abnormal screenings
  • Educate parents about Virginia’s health insurance program for children: FAMIS (Family Access to Medical Insurance Security) and FAMIS Plus (Children’s Medicaid program) and encourage enrollment if applicable
  • Provide some health education in the schools
Results

Fiscal year July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016 results:

  • 29,083 visits to the school nurses (1,965 students in the school system)
  • 21,344 contacts with parents by phone, emails, face-to-face visits
  • 99% to 99.6% school immunization compliance
Barriers
  • Finding substitute RNs when regular staff need time away. Without this backup staffing model, the school nurses are often working when they are ill and should stay home.
  • Each nurse works independently at the assigned site which translates into a challenge based on the volume of visits. With over 29,000 visits in a year, each nurse sees an average of 42.5 students each day.
Replication

A good relationship between all the parties involved is important to the healthy functioning of this program. The school nurses and the BRMC have a great relationship with the county and the school system, along with the school system principals and superintendents.

Awareness of school nursing program regulation changes are essential. For example, school nursing programs do not follow HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations; rather they follow FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) regulations.

A software tracking program is necessary for the school nurses in order to track students’ health information and the nurses’ interventions.

Contact Information
Deborah Williams, Chief Operations Officer
Blue Ridge Medical Center
434.263.4000
debbie@brmedical.com
Topics
Children and youth
Health screening
Schools
Wellness, health promotion, and disease prevention
States served
Virginia
Date added
July 14, 2005
Date updated or reviewed
February 19, 2017

Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.