When Florence Nightingale first theorized how best to care for patients in the Crimean War of the 1850’s, considering detailed data she had meticulously collected on medical and nursing matters to determine best practice in patient care, she championed the role of research for nursing professionals. Since this time, research has played a key role in the development of evidence-based practice within the nursing profession.
More than a century and half since Florence Nightingale’s revolution of nursing care, the range of nursing roles has exploded. Care is provided in a range of settings, but with the goal of the professional nurse remaining the same – advocating for the client and providing the best evidence-based practice. Of course, this may look different in each of the different settings in which a nurse might be providing this care and, as such, to advocate effectively and provide the best care in each specific setting, research specific to each setting is incredibly important.
Unfortunately, while we may be doing a great job on the ground in schools, according to Pawils et al (2023), school nurses have somewhat dropped the ball when it comes to the quality of school nursing research. Little Australian research exists about the role of the school nurse in effectively advocating for and providing the best evidence-based practice to pupils or the beneficial effect on the school community. In South Australia, where understanding of the importance of school nurse’s role lags behind much of the rest of the country, such research may be precisely what is required to promote this role and bring our state more in line with our neighbours who, recognising the benefits to wellbeing, education, the economy and the health of future generations, have already begun strategies to mobilise and utilise school nurses throughout schools.
Of course, here at SASNA, we long for more recognition of the role in South Australia. There is no public programme of school nursing in the state. School nurses are employed by only approximately 10% of independent schools with secondary aged pupils, and an even smaller percentage of schools overall. The scope of the school nurse’s role within many schools where they are employed is somewhat limited, preventing the best evidence-based care from being implemented and, consequentially, school communities from benefiting as they should.
With all of this in mind, we are embarking upon what we hope will be research that fuels conversation among nurses, families, school leadership and local government about how we can best meet the meet the health and wellbeing needs of pupils in our South Australian schools … and inspire further research in this area to inform our practice as we care for these communities. This research aims to investigate the innovative work of school nurses in South Australian schools as well as proposed work for which there may be barriers. It also seeks to investigate the core issues limiting increased school nurse roles in schools across the state. The research is due to begin in July 2023. Look out for further information in the coming months and be sure to give this research your full support to advance the role of the school nurse in South Australia, benefit school communities (and in turn future society) … and to follow in the footsteps of Florence Nightingale.