Working with local public health officials, state and local authorities

Preparing for School Reopening/Closing > Working with local public health officials, state and local authorities

According to the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), “School nurses are public health’s eyes and ears for the nation’s children and families. Their position within schools and their understanding of the social environment that surrounds the school offers a point of access for care that can extend the reach of public health.” Collaboration between school nursing and public health can help address emerging challenges within healthcare and education sectors and proactively support students’ ability to be healthy and ready to learn.

The school nurse’s role includes conducting health surveillance and public health reporting, preventing and managing infectious and chronic diseases, promoting healthy behaviors, helping students and families access healthcare resources, and addressing the social determinants of health and health disparities.

School nurses have taken on public health roles including performing contact tracing and COVID-19 testing during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is critical to obtain and sustain a positive working relationship between school nurses and the local public health authority.

Key Considerations:

  • Partner with public health agencies and providers to support more efficient use of resources to address student and family social determinants of health, reduce duplicative services, and lower healthcare costs (e.g. contact tracing, quarantining students and staff, reporting positive COVID-19 results).
  • Align new and existing school health policies and best practices with public health strategy, coordination and measurable system outcomes (e.g. quarantining students and staff, physical distancing, personal protective equipment accesses and appropriate use, hand hygiene).
  • Partner with public health agencies to coordinate school health promotion educational initiatives to ensure that these efforts and resources are not duplicated (e.g. COVID-19 education materials, vaccine education materials, social media messages and graphics).
  • Conduct disease surveillance for COVID-19 and other reportable diseases in the school community and communicate timely health information with public health agencies (e.g. positive coronavirus tests, positive tuberculosis tests).
  • Collaborate with families and school staff to identify vulnerable students (e.g. high risk medical conditions, homelessness, , mental health concerns, food insecurity).
  • Collaborate with school leaders and implement best practices to prevent the spread of communicable disease (e.g. vaccination clinics, immunization surveillance) and prevent exacerbation of chronic conditions (e.g. air quality programs, stock medications (e.g. epi-pens, albuterol) developing 504 Plans, parent outreach for availability of medications and medication orders).
  • Communicate and coordinate with state level public health stakeholders who can advocate for school health services and provide school nurse consultant services.

CDC Resources

Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools through Phased Prevention