When Holland Hospital began partnering with Ottawa area schools to provide health services to students more than 15 years ago, the program consisted of one registered nurse serving two Holland elementary schools.
The School Nurse program today provides health services to 8,000 children who otherwise might go without in five school districts: Holland Public, West Ottawa, Hamilton, Holland Christian and Fennville.
"We've witnessed a great amount of progress in the health and well-being of students in the schools our program services," says Holland Hospital Director of Community Outreach Jodi Gogolin. "Without the school nurse program in place, many of the students we regularly work with would not receive the health services that we are able to provide."
The school nurses' duties go far beyond putting bandages on cuts and scrapes. Providing sick child care and first aid care, administrating medications and creating unique care plans for students with chronic diseases are daily activities.
"We couldn't do our jobs without the school nurses in the building," says Julie Mishoe, a 3rd-grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary School in Holland.
Adds Woodside Elementary School 4th-grade teacher Marcy Engelsman: "Our school nurse goes above and beyond her professional requirements, providing a helping hand and a listening ear to every student who requires her attention. After receiving the care of our nurse, students are often able to return to class and continue on with their learning."
In addition to the treatments they deliver, the nurses also help students, parents and teachers learn about preventative care by providing wellness education in the classrooms.
"Research shows that healthy students are better learners," Jodi says. "Students we work with, as well as their parents and teachers, are learning about living a healthy lifestyle through physical activity and healthy eating."
Students in the schools are missing less class time as a result of the program, with school nurses' ability to assess students' wellness and determine whether they should be at school or at home. The program provides health services to those who need them while fostering an environment of safety and comfort.
"I don't feel afraid because I know that they'll take care of me," says Julia, a 6th-grade student at Jefferson Elementary School.
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