Many times, the school nurse is the first person to recognize physical and mental health issues in a child. As we are not typically equipped to diagnose and manage illnesses, communicating with teachers, parents, administration, and other caregivers is the best tool in our arsenal for ensuring that students get the care and attention they need. Whether you are working with a student who has a potential health issue or one who is being treated for an existing condition, here are some top tips for keeping the lines of communication open and healthy.
Communicating with Parents
Having a good rapport with the parents of your students can help make your job easier as a nurse and encourage parents to be more supportive of their kids. When you see a child in your office, be sure to always communicate with them as soon as possible, let them ask questions, and share feedback with you about any current issues or symptoms that they’ve noticed. Plan meetings with the parents of students who are undergoing long-term treatments and check in with parents whose students are homesick for an extended period of time. The exchange of information is crucial to gain information that you need to care for their children.
Partnering with Teachers
Because teachers are with students for a large percentage of their day, they’re usually quick to notice changes in behavior or physical symptoms that are out of the norm for a particular child. Check in with teachers regularly, particularly when there has been a change in a treatment regimen for a child with an existing condition, and have an open door policy that allows them to come to you with their concerns about students.
Reaching Out to Physicians
Working hand in hand with other care providers, such as pediatricians and specialists makes managing student care a simpler task for everyone. In the case of students who may be responding poorly to a treatment, your observations may be key to making changes. For students who are going through diagnosis, you may be able to offer insight into symptoms, correlation and causation, and other factors that can assist with finding the correct course of treatment.
Bringing in Administration or Outside Services
When you feel there is an issue with the level of care that a student is receiving at home and typical communication channels are failing, it may be wise to reach out to administration or social services to assist. Always be sure to document any findings and keep a clean paper trail so that your observations can be properly investigated and addressed. Understand your responsibilities when it comes to mandatory reporting and follow protocol when necessary.
Every school nurse wants the best for his or her students – health wise, in the classroom, and at home. Working as a team with the other responsible adults involved with the students will create a better environment for everyone. Keeping a line of communication open is the first and most important step to achieving your common goal of happy, healthy children.