HD21 - School Health Personnel in Virginia Public Schools: Recommendations for Qualifications and Training (Chapter 552, Item 137.T., 2021 SSI)

Executive Summary:

There is an increasing need for health professionals in schools caused by the increasing complexity of student healthcare needs, an increase in chronic health conditions, chronic absenteeism, increased mental health needs, and healthcare inequities due to social determinants of health. The National Survey of Children’s Health data shows that more than 40 percent of school-aged children and adolescents have at least one chronic or mental health condition and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that at least 25 percent of all students have chronic health conditions. Increased pre-term infant survival and increased medical complexity of hospitalized pediatric patients have resulted in an increased number of medically fragile children who enter school with moderate-severe disabilities and/or complex healthcare needs.

“A student’s health is directly related to his or her ability to learn. Children with unmet health needs have a difficult time engaging in the educational process. The school nurse supports student success by providing health care through assessment, intervention, and follow-up for all children within the school setting. The school nurse addresses the physical, mental, emotional, and social health needs of students and supports their achievement in the learning process." (National Association of School Nurses)

The need for healthcare professionals in schools has been exacerbated by the recent COVID-19 pandemic, requiring knowledge of epidemiology, nursing assessment skills, mitigation, contact tracing, recognizing signs of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), accurate communication about all aspects of the pandemic, and attention to the increased social, emotional, and mental health needs experienced by children at this time. Across the state, school nurses have been actively involved in vaccine administration, contact tracing, mitigation procedures, patient education, and addressing the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and the social determinants of health.