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Times School Nurses Are Not Enough


There is no better time than now to bump up the health resources for children in schools, experts say.

School children have had an especially challenging time navigating the tedious months of the pandemic, with recent reports showing that students fell four to seven months behind in math and reading compared to previous years, and with the most vulnerable students showing the steepest declines.

But while schools have typically tried to improve student achievement by focusing on academic testing and additional classes, they’ve too often neglected a major factor in their success: physical, mental and social health. This is especially true for children living in economically disadvantaged communities, who unlike their peers in wealthier communities often lack access to quality health care and resources.

There are many reasons such children often struggle to do well in school, but education specialists say there is no better time than now to devote more resources to their often-limited access to needed health services. Just as shouting doesn’t enable a deaf person to hear or better lighting a blind person to see, feeding facts and figures to youngsters with untreated health problems is unlikely to help them learn.

Charles E. Basch, a professor of health and education at Columbia University’s Teachers College, wrote in a special issue of the Journal of School Health in 2011: “Healthier students are better learners,” a fact he called “a missing link in school reforms to close the achievement gap.” In the report, he said that schools trying to enhance academic achievement should target their efforts on reducing health disparities that might impair a student’s education.

“The health needs of children have not been considered a central mission of schools,” Dr. Basch told me. “Yet there’s a clear connection between mental and physical health and the ability of children to learn.” And by not adequately addressing such needs, he said, “society is losing talent.”

Enter school-based health centers — facilities either in the school itself or nearby that not only tend to acute health issues like cuts and bruises, but also provide a suite of health services including primary, mental and dental care; substance abuse counseling; nutrition education and more. “They bring health care to where the children are, and they’re a very good way to provide health care to children who might not otherwise get it,” said Nicholas Freudenberg, a professor of public health at the City University of New York School of Public Health.

School-based health centers are a cardinal feature of community schools and other public schools that have increasingly recognized how difficult it is for many children to get their health problems adequately detected and treated. Such challenges may be especially acute for those living in low-income urban centers or rural areas. If a parent has to take time off from work or find a babysitter, or if transportation is unavailable or unaffordable to get a child to a medical visit, needed services are too often neglected until there’s a crisis, experts have said.

The nonprofit Paramount Health Data Project, which recently published a report on students’ health conditions in public and private schools in Indiana, found that the more often children visited the school nurse, the poorer their academic achievement on statewide tests, Azure Angelov, the project’s director, told me. The project’s data suggest “that students who are frequent visitors to the school nurse are simply unhealthy and frequently do not feel well during the school day,” Dr. Angelov and colleagues wrote in the report. “This is impacting their ability to learn.”

Although the majority of public schools have at least one full-time or part-time nurse, that’s hardly adequate to care for kids who often have complex and interrelated health problems that can get in the way of learning. For example, a child with poorly controlled asthma may avoid exercise and have trouble sleeping, which is when the brain consolidates memory. In addition to medication and routine follow-up, that child may need dietary and exercise advice and assistance in clearing allergens from the home.

Managing Your Time In Nursing School

Whether your semester has just begun or your classes are in full swing, it’s never too late to revise your strategy and give your time management approach a reality check. Nursing school can be overwhelming and push you in ways you didn’t know you could be challenged. Getting to the finish line will not be easy but a clear and deliberate plan of action will help you get there unscathed.

TIME EFFICIENCY

In nursing school, everything else becomes secondary to studying. Create a daily and or hourly schedule and stick to it to be the most efficient. An hour by hour plan will help tremendously in keeping you on track to hit your daily milestones. In addition, it will be helpful to get conditioned to studying first before everything else. On days when on site classes are held, commuters should consider staying on campus to complete studying for the day instead of wasting precious time in stop and go traffic. If you stay on campus, avoid trips back and forth between classes to the your room and use small breaks to stick it out in the library. Keep flash cards on hand for quick study breaks when your schedule allows. Downloading audio lectures can be helpful for learning on the go and can be accessed on your headset or in the car. Parents should try to maximize time when children are sleeping or at school and use this time to study also. Lastly use weekends to meal prep, do house chores, prepare for the week and of course study!

STAYING ORGANIZED 

Getting organized can drastically change your nursing school experience for the better and create more time for focused learning.. Allocating specific folders, binders and bags for each class or day of the week will help you tremendously. Printing the syllabi for each course, outlining major deadlines and noting all test and assignment dates can be lifesaving. Large calendars are also great for providing a monthly view of classes, assignments, tests and clinicals. Small planners  can provide a great weekly view of your obligations and phone reminders can be essential. Organization will allow you the space and peace of mind to study. Preparing class and clinical materials ahead of time can be lifesaving.

DEVELOP AN EFFECTIVE STUDY STRATEGY

Undoubtedly, studying is the most time intensive task in nursing school. There’s an exorbitant amount of info to read, digest and retain and seemingly not enough time in the day to tackle it all. Study at times that you are most energized and receptive. Create a dedicated area in your home that’s conducive to studying helps to set the tone and environment for optimal learning that’s free of distractions. It is also  important to master the skill of intaking and dumping information. Unlike your pre-nursing courses, being super detailed oriented could actually work against you in nursing school. After your first test, there should be an analysis of the materials you covered as it relates to what you were actually tested on. Let this information guide your future study habits per course. Your learning style may be auditory or visual; however, most people study best in groups and are able to grasp concepts from peers more concisely. Lastly, grab a few classmates with similar schedules to form a study group and test your knowledge by explaining and teaching one another.

KEEP SOCIAL TO A MINIMUM

“Do what you have to now  so you can do what you want later.” While cliche, the aforementioned expression holds true. Nursing school is no joke and is a real life commitment and sacrifice of time. Depending on the rigidity of your program, you may want to consider minimizing social outings for the duration of your program. This does not mean that you can’t have a life or shouldn’t see your friends and family; however, it does mean you should be doing so a lot less. Remember, self-care is a huge component of keeping your sanity during this challenging time.  Be sure to prioritize time for things that make you happy, recharge your energy and allow you to step away for mental breaks. Schedule your social time in advance to be sure your interactions are not becoming distractions to your focus and productivity. Also, it may not be a bad idea to limit time on social media as well. You can use various apps to track and limit your usage.

ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNER

In nursing school you have countless assignments, deadlines, tests and obligations. In this environment a hectic schedule can get the best of them despite proper planning and time management. Therefore, having a human reminder  can really go a long way. Identifying a buddy in the program will be gold and in addition to helping you stay on top of all your deadlines, they can provide moral support and encouragement which can improve your nursing school experience drastically.

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