COVID has put the health of students front and center and has thrust school nurses into the spotlight. School nurses are being asked to do the near impossible, without adequate personal protective equipment needed to protect yourself or your students. Your administration may or may not be hearing your expertise and concerns. As schools scramble to put physical distancing in place, and other learning going virtual, many school nurses have asked if they should bother collecting data. The reality is although the activities you do and the data you collect may be a bit different this year-you should still collect data. Some of the activities you did in the past must wait due to COVID-giving you an opportunity to re-look at what activities you do, including collecting data. Never let a good crisis go to waste!
Data is how school nurses can share their story and show their important role and is a fundamental part of school nursing in the 21st century (NASN, 2020). If you have not collected data before, this is the year to start collecting it. Start with one key activity or data point. What does your principal ask you the most about? Or what vital skill does your principal not understand about school nurses? Prioritize skills that reflect nursing expertise and critical thinking. Make that your 2020 – 2021 data point.
If you already collect data, you may want to think about the activities you will be doing this year (especially if they are different than in past years). Capture that in your data. Examples may include:
- Number of virtual visits
- Number of COVID-19 educational sessions broken down by audience: students, staff, parents
- Number of parent communications (phone, email, virtual meetings)
- Number of COVID-19 contact tracing
- Number of students identified by the school nurse for being at risk
- And interventions delivered by the school nurse to address need, including population mental health
- Percentage of students contacted by school nurse (broken down by race/ethnicity, free/reduced lunch, disability)
- And any specific outcomes, such as improved engagement or attendance, improved health, or other needs met
- Of unengaged or chronically absents students, the percentage of students contacted by school nurse
- And any specific outcomes from your interactions such as resources provided, or referrals made
- Number of COVID-19 screenings (and types of symptoms exhibited to warrant the screening)
- Number of COVID-19 cases
- Number of times an isolation room was set up for a suspected case – number of people in the isolation room simultaneously
- Number of teacher communications (phone, email, virtual meetings)
- Number of administrator communications (phone, email, virtual meetings)
- Number of health department and health care provide communications (phone, email, virtual meetings)
- Number of school nurse communications, internal and external for consultation (phone, email, virtual meetings)
Do not forget about the data points outlined by NASN’s National School Health Data Set: Every Student Counts! related to workforce, number of students with chronic conditions, and health office visits.
Whatever data point you decide to collect-set up a system to smooth the data collection process. This could be on a tracking form you create on paper, or ideally using an electronic health record.
The new school year brings a lot of unknowns that increases the stress. I empathize with your situation. During crises we often get overwhelmed because our glass seems overflowing already. COVID is that crisis. Yet, it is during a crisis that we actually identify the most critical activities we must do; and we can relook at our glass. So many things are shifting to a ‘new normal’ let’s make 2020-2021 the Year of the School Nurse (to coincide with 2020 being the Year of the Nurse). Let’s make 2020-2021 the year school nurses shifted to the new normal and put data front and center.
National Association of School Nurses. (2020). Framework for 21st Century School Nursing PracticeTM: Clarifications and updated definitions. NASN School Nurse, 35(4), 225-233. https://doi.org/10.1177/1942602X20928372