A School Nursing Practicum at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada

By Schoenfeld, Bonnie M. | Journal of School Health, September 2003 | Go to article overview

A School Nursing Practicum at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada


Schoenfeld, Bonnie M., Journal of School Health


"You can't educate a child who isn't healthy, and you can't keep a child healthy who isn't educated." (1)

The World Health Organization asserts that the activities in schools can offer a powerful approach that supports both young people's health and learning. (2) As children progress through the school years, the influence of family becomes secondary to the influence of academic instruction and extracurricular activities in school, (3) which allows school personnel to influence children in terms of both their education and health. In addition, nurse educators face new and exciting opportunities to help students develop the concepts, theories, and skills to promote the health of children and families.

BACKGROUND

Growing enrollment at the University of Saskatchewan's College of Nursing in the mid-1990s spurred faculty to seek new clinical placements for senior students to practice health promotion in a community setting. The first six-week clinical practicum, begun in 1994, involved two students at Nutana High School in the Saskatoon Public School Division.

Following that first successful collaboration between the College of Nursing and the school division, the program expanded to include four schools and eight nursing students per year. The practicum begins with informal interaction with students, and meetings with teachers, administrators, and parents to assess and prioritize the needs of the school and its community. Nursing students work with elementary and high school students to develop projects using a range of strategies, attempting to make the strategies comprehensive and multifaceted. (4)

A CHANGING ROLE

School health professionals can encourage and support children and families to make healthy lifestyle choices. (5) Nurses also can play a key role in laying the groundwork for successful partnerships between schools, families, and the community. (6)

When nurses provide children with information about health-promoting behavior, they also must create a supportive environment to help children practice that behavior outside the classroom. Information alone does not change behavior. Health education emphasizing individual responsibility should not preclude addressing other health determinants that affect decisions people make. (7) For example, teaching a sixth-grade class how to "say no" to smoking involves students, families, and the community to: 1) develop a supportive environment for nonsmoking; 2) create opportunities that provide choices for children; and 3) promote a community sense of control over their own health. (8)

In Saskatchewan, a reported 25% of children come to school with problems that affect their learning, and it is becoming increasingly more difficult for teachers to meet the complex needs of today's students. Many come to school hungry and sick, requiring dental care, eyeglasses, or hearing aids. Many come from substandard housing, violence, and negative encounters with the law. (9) Lack of positive role models at home often prevents children from developing socially appropriate skills that affect their ability to learn, and teachers' ability to teach. Teachers feel frustrated because they want to focus on student learning, but they also understand the need to address these student concerns. (10)

In May 1999, the Saskatchewan Minister of Education asked a 12-person task force to examine the role of schools in today's society. After gathering information and consulting extensively, the task force concluded that schools must become something more than in the past. As well as providing education, schools, with other human services such as health, justice, and social services, need to create an environment to support children and youth. This approach, called SCHOOL (PLUS), seeks to deliver all services to children in an integrated, school-linked and school-based environment. (11)

As health care continues to shift to community-based nursing, public health services must place increased emphasis on creating and supporting health promotion and disease prevention programs in schools. …

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