School nursing has been in existence around the globe in one way or another for over 100 years, with well-established models particularly evident in countries such as the USA and UK in more recent with successful outcomes well-documented. At the heart of student health and wellbeing, school nursing encompasses both physical and mental health aspects of students’ lives and, over time, can transform health in society, ensuring a future healthier population while reducing health and education costs in the present.
The role is incredibly diverse. As one senior nurse in NSW described it, school nursing is, ‘an iceberg profession – what is seen on top is just a fraction of the scope and scale of what school nurses do’.
Primary health care, early detection of health or developmental issues and timely intervention, health promotion, prevention, health education, and chronic condition management are all key elements. Health and safety assessment work, healthcare resource management, emergency/crisis management, first aid, and health counselling are also frequently included in the role. It is this diversity that appeals to many school nurses.
Though some in the role work as part of a team, many are the sole healthcare professional in their institution, shouldering great responsibility as they provide the expert advice and skills upon which the school community depends in the everyday lives of many students and in emergencies. As such, school nurses have a lot to offer in the development and evaluation of whole of school systems to meet students’ health needs … if utilised well.
There are challenges. Conflicts of education policies and professional nursing standards, limited funding and professional isolation are all real obstacles. School nurses are, therefore, required to be strong advocates for the nursing role as they collaborate with non-health professional members of the school’s multidisciplinary team, facilitating an understanding of the role and professional legislated obligations.
At present, unlike in other states, school nurses in South Australia are employed exclusively by private and Catholic schools, the Government of South Australia not yet hiring nurses in the public school system. Our passion is to see the profile and standards of school nursing raised in South Australia and for that to ignite Australia’s support of this critically untapped area of nursing which belongs at the heart of student health and wellbeing … for all school-aged children.
South Australian School Nurse Association – at the heart of student health and wellbeing.
SASNA helps to …
- connect school nurses in twice termly meetings (online attendance available), a private online forum, social media posts and through a members’ directory.
- support members through a network of experienced, qualified professionals prepared to work as a team.
- develop school nurses, encouraging research, innovative programmes in schools, and discussion of case studies, also providing access to presentations from expert guest speakers, external PD opportunities as they arise and a range of useful resources, news, events and job vacancies.
SASNA exists to support and empower school nurses in the provision of evidence-based health care to school communities through: