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School Nurses Issue Standards for Practice

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Acting independently of the wider nursing profession for the first time, the National Association of School Nurses this summer released a new set of standards for members of the profession.

In the past, officials of the 8,000-member association have routinely published standards in cooperation with the larger American Nurses Association.

But for the first new standards in a decade, association officials opted to produce standards that would address the unique working conditions of school nurses, who serve a diverse population with multiple needs. Unlike nurses who work in hospitals, school nurses are isolated in school clinics and have to establish their own networks and procedures, officials said.

The standards were also developed, in part, to prepare school nurses for the nation's impending health-care overhaul, officials said. The Clinton Administration has voiced strong support for mobilizing schools as delivery sites for basic health services to young people.

"Health-care reform may redefine the functions of all of us,'' said Susan Lordi, the past president of the association and an author of the standards, "and we are positioning ourselves to be key in health-care reform.''

The health reformers "are going to have to ask us--the people who know how to do it,'' Ms. Lordi added.

10 Standards Outlined

The document, entitled "School Nursing Practice: Roles and Standards,'' outlines 10 standards said to be critical to sustaining professional achievement under these changing conditions:

  • Clinical knowledge: School nurses must be generalists and knowledgeable about a variety of disciplines, including the physical, behavioral, and social sciences.
  • Nursing process: School nurses should follow a scientific approach in their practice. They should gather data, diagnose the problem, identify the desired outcome, implement a plan, and evaluate it.
  • Special health needs: School nurses should be familiar with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, understand local policies toward students with disabilities, and help to normalize these students' educational experiences.
  • Communications: School nurses must communicate clinical information in lay language to be effective in the schools and the community.
  • Program management: For school nurses, the patient often is an entire school. School nurses should use such management techniques as school health assessments to maintain a comprehensive health program.
  • Collaboration within the school system: School nurses should work with parents and school professionals to meet the health, developmental, and educational needs of students.
  • Collaboration with community health systems: School nurses should work to establish links with health providers outside the school.
  • Health education: School nurses should use every opportunity to help children become better informed about their health.
  • Research: School nurses should be well-informed about children's health issues.
  • Professional development: School nurses should promote the importance of school nursing to education leaders.

Copies of the report may be obtained for $15 each from the National Association of School Nurses, P.O. Box 1300, Scarborough, Me. 04070-1300.

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