The 2015-2016 Step Up & Be Counted! infographic has been released! The infographic details how an extraordinary number of school nurses across the United States have volunteered to Step Up and Be Counted!
Before school nurses began their effort to collect school health data at the national level, school nurses were national “data orphans” even though several states collected robust data on school health. The current accessible bulk of national healthcare data focuses on information gleaned from services and procedures billed by health care systems, primary care and insurance claims. Since most school nurse care is not reimbursable, that unreimbursed care is not tallied.
National education databases collect voluminous and detailed information about teachers, instruction and class sizes, but do not collect detailed information detailing the number, types and credentials of school health care providers, nor the amount of care that is delivered in school to children with chronic health conditions or to keep children healthy.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) can report that more than 4,500 workers die on the job each year and can specify how many were from falls, burns, electrocution and other workplace accidents. Yet, we do not know how many United States students die at school each year. We do not know the number of anaphylaxis incidents, 911 calls, sudden cardiac incidents, bus accidents or falls from playground equipment that occur during the school day. We don’t even know with certainty the number of school-age students with chronic conditions.
Without objective data, it is difficult to convince legislators that there is a need for policy or regulations for safety equipment, new school health practices or the addition of school nurses or school health support services.
The Step Up & Be Counted! data that has been generated over the last 2 years, and now is in its 3rd year, is a first step toward the ability to answer the many questions our stakeholders have about the health care that is provided in school and the number of school health care providers across the country.
School nurses in all but two states contributed to the 2015-2016 Step Up! data. The infographics for both this year and last year are explicit that the data is not generalizable. To be able to generalize data, we need to be confident that nurses in all types of communities (rural, suburban and urban) and nurses in all kinds of schools and all kinds of school health delivery models (e.g. all RN, unlicensed assistive personnel, number of schools served) have contributed to the database.
If, in a particular state, school nurses with only one or two schools are more likely to contribute, or the data is over represented by nurses who serve fewer than 500 students, then policy makers will assume that schools are well staffed and no changes in funding or legislation are needed. So it is imperative that each year we increase the depth and breadth of each state’s database by recruiting our colleagues and supporting them in this effort. If we can get substantially more nurses to participate, we will be able to present generalizable data and will no longer be “data orphans.”
The national infographic is a graphic display that makes the data reported easy to understand. Although the national data is not generalizable, your local or state data may be generalizable. If your school district’s Step Up & Be Counted! data is complete, or nearly complete, you can create an accurate and generalizable infograph for your school board, PTO, and administration.
External child health partners in your community, such as pediatricians, health care systems, and the health department, would welcome the data you can share about the children and the community they serve. If you are lucky enough to be in a state that has robust Step Up & Be Counted! data from a majority of the state, your Designated State Data Champion may have statewide generalizable data and a state infographic that you can compare with your local data.
Using data, you may be able to convince your community to invest in increased services for children and increase the number of nurses to keep children healthy, safe, and ready to learn!