The Division of Public Health, School Nurse Program, part of the School Health Unit within the Children & Youth Branch, commits to promoting the health and learning of the state’s children and youth.
"School nursing is a specialized practice of professional nursing that advances the well being, academic success, and life-long achievement of students. To that end, school nurses facilitate positive student responses to normal development; promote health and safety; intervene with actual and potential health problems; provide case management services; and actively collaborate with others to build student and family capacity for adaptation, self management, self advocacy, and learning." (National Association of School Nurses, June 1999)
“Having a full-time school nurse in every school is the best means of ensuring a strong connection with each student’s medical home.” (American Academy of Pediatrics, May 2008)
At minimum, one school nurse should serve no more than 750 students, depending on community and student population. (CDC, Healthy People 2010 goal, Objective 7-4)
In North Carolina more than 1,200 registered nurses are employed to provide school nursing services. Each school nurse serves an average of 1,200 students, almost 60% more students than the federally recommended ratio of 1 nurse per 750 students. School nurses in North Carolina are employed by a variety of agencies; 70% are employed by local school districts and the remaining are employed by local health departments or hospitals. In most schools, the school nurse is the only licensed health care provider in the school, and in most school districts, a school nurse manages all school health services and coordinates all school health programs. She or he also serves as consultant and resource for school health education. Additionally, school nurses are employed by private or religious schools in the state, and some state-supported charter schools also employ school nurses.
Given the breadth and variety of practice settings of school nurses, the School Health Unit makes available the services of one state school nurse consultant and six regional school nurse consultants to provide leadership, training and consultation services to school nurses. Additionally, the school nurse consultants support parents, teachers, administrators, and community collaborators who also promote the health and learning of children and youth. Through their influence, the school nurse consultants collaborate with multidisciplinary representative specialists across the Division of Public Health and with local communities to promote maximum physical, social, emotional, and educational growth of children and adolescents in the school setting. Among the goals of the School Nurse Program are to improve the quality of school health programs and school nursing practice, including raising the number of school nurses in the state achieving national school nurse certification and the number of school districts in the state improving their school nurse to student ratio. Currently, a full 50% of the state’s school nurses have reached school nurse certification. The goal of improving the school nurse to student ratio is heavily influenced by actions of the NC General Assembly, which has, beginning with the 2004-05 school year, increased state funding for school nurse positions. The School health Program administers the General Assembly’s School Nurse Funding Initiative through contracts and agreements with health departments, hospitals and school districts serving nearly all of the 115 school systems.
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