Delivering Internet Health Resources to an Underserved Health Care Profession: School Nurses*[dagger]

Article excerpt

Purpose: This paper reports on a course developed for school nurses. The course focused on locating reliable and high-quality medical information resources on the Internet.

Setting/Participants/Resources: The Health Sciences Library System (HSLS) of the University of Pittsburgh formed a partnership with the Pennsylvania Association of School Nurses and Practitioners (PASNAP). Through this partnership, a hands-on course was offered at the PASNAP annual conference.

Brief description: As one component of the Health Information for the Public Project, a subcontract of the National Library of Medicine, HSLS collaborated with PASNAP. This collaboration resulted in HSLS librarians' offering a course titled "Access to Electronic Health Information for School Nurses" at PASNAP's annual conference. This paper describes the school nurse population, their professional information needs, and the development of the course curriculum.

Results/Outcome: This course provided participants with the skills to effectively utilize the Internet to locate high-quality medical information.

Evaluation method: A course evaluation and impact survey were used to assess the effectiveness of the instruction.

INTRODUCTION

It is essential that the school nurse population be able to locate reliable and authoritative health information on the Internet. To meet this need, the Health Sciences Library System (HSLS) of the University of Pittsburgh collaborated with the Pennsylvania Association of School Nurses and Practitioners (PASNAP). This collaboration was part of the Health Information for the Public project, partially funded by the National Library of Medicine with Region 1 of the National Network of Libraries at the New York Academy of Medicine. A review of the literature found no relevant artides on school nurses' receiving training from medical librarian instructors.

BACKGROUND

The Health Sciences Library System consists of four libraries: Falk Library of the Health Sciences, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic Library, James Frazer Hillman Health Sciences Library, and Hopwood Library at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Shadyside: a health resource center for patients and families. Together, they serve the six schools of the Health Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh, as well as the hospitals and facilities of UPMC.

The Pennsylvania Association of School Nurses and Practitioners is a professional association for all certified school nurses and nurse practitioners in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania [1]. PASNAP joined the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) in 1992, and currently has over 800 active members [2].

School nurses

The definition of a school nurse is extensive in scope. NASN defines the role of the school nurse as "a specialized practice of professional nursing that advances the well being; academic success and life long achievement of students" [3]. The American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on School Health describes how school nurses provide acute, chronic, episodic, and emergency health care along with education, counseling, and advocacy for students with disabilities [4].

From these descriptions, it is apparent that school nurses have roles ranging from nurse to counselor to advocate in the school districts they serve. An important responsibility of the school nurse in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is to provide mandated health-screening tests in grades K through 12. Students are required to have annual height and weight measurements and vision screenings. Grades K, 1,2,3,7,11, and special ungraded classes receive hearing screenings. Grades 6,7, and age-appropriate students in ungraded classes are screened for scoliosis. Tuberculosis testing is conducted when students enter grade 9 [5].

School nurses must also respond to other health issues that may arise during the school day. These health issues may include checking for head lice, monitoring a student with an asthma attack, counseling a pregnant teenager, or dispensing medication to children with a chronic illness, such as diabetes mellitus or a learning disorder. …