With the lead of Lori Anderson, a faculty member at the UW-Madison School of Nursing and the American Family Children’s Hospital, a health-care system to support school nurses called eSchoolCare was created.
In an educational system from elementary to high school, the first source of health care is through a school nurse. From giving medications to administering oxygen, a school nurse’s role is critical for the health care quality provided to students. While school nurses are trained to meet the demands of modern medicine, their training for providing children with chronic conditions is limited.
eSchoolCare is a program readily usable on a portable screen such as a laptop or tablet to provide expertise on chronic illnesses from trustworthy and authoritative sources. Some examples of chronic illnesses include mental health disorders, severe allergies and cancer. The ongoing and updated expertise provided on the modules comes from members of the School of Nursing and the American Family Children’s Hospital.
A school nurse has the ability as the only medical provider in a school or a school district to model their own health system. However, the profession of a school nurse is in some ways an isolated and forgotten health profession. Anderson said, “One of the goals is to talk about eSchoolCare and to raise awareness of school nurses and what they do.”
On discussing her experience as a school nurse out of graduate school, Anderson said, “I was in the school district all by myself and it’s an independent practice, but it is also sort of isolated, so if you go work at a hospital, you have all sorts of colleagues who are nurses and you can run questions by them.”
Fortunately for Anderson, she was able to rely on a close source, her mother. “My mother was a school nurse and when I was in high school, I would go and help her periodically with hearing screenings and vision screenings and it was a cool job. So I could pick up the phone and call my mom and she was an expert school nurse. And I remembered my experience feeling kind of isolated,” said Anderson.
With this experience and the isolation Anderson felt, she believed that providing nurse practitioners evidence-based information can benefit them in providing excellent care for children.
Anderson said, “I am completely motivated and inspired by the excellent school nurses that are out there because they make a huge difference in kids’ lives and they are sort of the forgotten person… the really excellent [nurses] raise up awareness of what they can do and what they can’t do and they partner with the health-care systems, they partner with the families and they partner with the educators, and they can make a huge difference in managing care of kids with chronic conditions and helping coordinate that care.”
As a post doctorate at UW-Madison, Anderson was able to initiate her idea of eSchoolCare through the UW-Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (UWICTR) and Discovery to Product (D2P). Starting first with a survey of school nurses across the country, Anderson confirmed the need for more expertise to help school nurses provide care for children with chronic health conditions, especially as the presence of children with chronic health conditions is increasing in schools.
School nurses are sometimes limited in their support and their location of travel. A grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services followed by gifts and subscriptions has supported eSchoolCare and the accessibility of this tool to nurse practitioners.
eSchoolCare is now in approximately 30 Wisconsin counties and the whole state of West Virginia. Anderson and her team hope to expand their system and allow school nurses the opportunity to grow and be even more competent in the quality of care they can provide to children, especially those with chronic health conditions.