Student Well-Being

Ga. School Diagnoses Students with Virtual Doctors

By Dean Poling, The Valdosta Daily Times (MCT) — February 22, 2011 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Miles away from this Nashville, Ga., school, a physician’s assistant hears a sound in a student’s chest. Based on the catch in the child’s breathing, the physician’s assistant diagnoses asthmatic bronchitis.

The student has never left the school. The physician’s assistant has never left her office in another South Georgia city. And the school nurse has information for the child’s parents, who never had to miss a minute of work to take their child to the doctor.

That situation illustrates just one case in the Berrien school system’s pilot participation in a “telemed” program. But it underscores what one day may be the new way in which children throughout Georgia and the United States visit the school nurse and the doctor.

Through computer technology, Berrien County Elementary School’s Med Clinic allows students to see a doctor while at school, and for a doctor to see the child without ever leaving the physician’s offices. Berrien County is the only Georgia school system with telemedicine capabilities, according to coordinators.

The Berrien County Collaborative, a Nashville, Ga.-based nonprofit organization established to improve schools by supporting strong peer-adult relationships and providing health services, pursued the program for the 3,000-student county school district. To fund the program, the collaborative applied for and won grants from the Governor’s Office’s Systems of Care, Emory University’s Urban Health Initiative, and the Georgia Health Care Foundation.

The Med Clinic opened in Berrien Elementary School in August. Since then, the program has grown to include 22 percent of the school’s population, says Sherrie Williams, the clinic’s program director.

All Berrien Elementary students, teachers, and administrators are eligible to take part in the program. Participating families complete paperwork and provide appropriate cost-coverage information for insurance or Medicare payments.

What the Med Clinic does is provide the means for medical care without a child having to leave the classroom for an appointment, or a parent having to lose time at work or money from a paycheck, or a teacher keeping a doctor’s appointment without the school system needing to hire a substitute.

If a mother needs a child to see a doctor, she can make an appointment through the Med Clinic that same morning. The clinic then e-mails participating physicians, Dr. Brian Griner of Valdosta or Dr. Richard E. Wheeler of Nashville.

The Med Clinic works similar to a walk-in clinic. A student is called from class when a doctor or physician’s assistant becomes available. Or a sick child can stay in the clinic until a doctor becomes available.

Berrien school nurse Lorene Nix ministers to the child on site. The doctor or physician’s assistant at a different site can see Ms. Nix and the child on a computer screen, and they, in turn, can see the doctor. They can also hear each other.

‘Wave of the Future’

Everyone can also see points of examination. Ms. Nix uses a lighted camera wand to look down students’ throats or into their ears. On the screen, the doctor can see what the camera wand reveals. Doctors recently diagnosed two children with strep using that approach, according to Ms. Williams.

Through the telemedicine capability, the Med Clinic also offers psychiatric care to children in need. A Thomasville dermatologist also participates in the program.

The Med Clinic is also capable of taking blood and other samples normally taken in a doctor’s office and then delivering them for lab work.

As a school nurse, Ms. Nix has found a new level of satisfaction with the Med Clinic.

“In the past, I couldn’t do much more than call a parent and tell them their child was sick,” she said. “Now, I’m more involved in helping the students.”

Ms. Williams says Berrien Elementary is the first step in bringing the program to all five county schools during the next five years.

This month, Berrien Primary School becomes part of the program. Ms. Williams has already processed numerous applications for participation in the Berrien Primary program prior to its opening. Berrien Elementary participation continues growing.

Ms. Williams believes telemedicine and school-based health clinics aren’t just the future for Berrien County schools, but for schools across the nation. “This is definitely the wave of the future,” she said.

Copyright © 2011, The Valdosta Daily Times, Ga. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
A version of this article appeared in the February 23, 2011 edition of Education Week as Georgia School Diagnoses Students With Virtual Doctors

Events

Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
Challenging the Stigma: Emotions and STEM
STEM isn't just equations and logic. Join this webinar and discover how emotions fuel innovation, creativity, & problem-solving in STEM!
Content provided by Project Lead The Way

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being Opinion Nobody Wants to Look Stupid: Resources for Teaching About Executive Functions
Executive functioning is a learned skill, explains an educational therapist. Here’s how to teach it to your students—and yourself.
Lexi Peterson
4 min read
Little girl inside head of woman papercut vector illustration. Psychology, inner child, human individuality and memory of childhood healing concept
iStock/Getty Images
Student Well-Being Quiz Quiz Yourself: How Much Do You Know About Teens’ Tobacco and Nicotine Use?
Answer these seven questions about students’ nicotine and tobacco habits.
1 min read
A high school principal displays vaping devices that were confiscated from students in such places as restrooms or hallways at the school in Massachusetts on April 10, 2018.
A high school principal displays vaping devices that were confiscated from students in such places as restrooms or hallways at the school in Massachusetts on April 10, 2018.
Steven Senne/AP
Student Well-Being Q&A A Superintendent Explains Why Her District Is Suing Social Media Companies
Student mental health and behavioral issues have become a major drain on district resources as social media use has risen.
3 min read
Teenage girl looking at smart phone
iStock/Getty
Student Well-Being Opinion When Students Feel Unlucky, Teachers Can Help Change That Attitude
Mindsets matter when it comes to thinking about opportunity. Here’s what new research finds.
Paul A. O'Keefe
2 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
Getty