Melissa Feltmann | Healthier Somerset Project Manager
Recently, the Somerset County School Nurses Association (SCSNA) held a Professional Development Day at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital — Somerset, providing the school nurses the opportunity to come together for a development workshop that included learning about the Somerset County Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP).
As a takeaway from the event, below is an interview with the SCSNA President, Lisa Manz, who is also a member of Healthier Somerset. Manz shares some insight on the SCNSA and how the school nurses can play a role in helping Healthier Somerset achieve their objectives.
What is the Somerset School Nurses Association?
The SCSNA was established in the 1960s as a forum for professional school nurses in Somerset County. It is a nonprofit organization that is affiliated with New Jersey State School Nurse Association (NJSSNA) and New Jersey Education Association (NJEA). At SCSNA, members can network with other school nurses to address school nursing topics, identify and share optimal health-care practices, foster evidence-based research and stay informed on new legislative bills or laws. This ultimately provides optimal ways to educate students, parents, community members and educational staff on how to stay safe, maintain a healthy lifestyle and find success in schools.
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Our association is 130 members strong. Some of our members are new to school nursing. Others are more seasoned and are very willing to provide advice and encouragement to those new to this type of nursing. Three to four times per year, the EB (Executive Board) plans current, relevant and top-quality dinner presentation programs. Our association prepares surveys and we request members to complete them to get feedback after each program, and we use the feedback to gather their ideas for future programs and to identify strengths and opportunities to improve current and plan future offerings. This enables our members to feel invested in the association and helps them identify ways to improve their performance as school nurses.
Since nurses are constantly seeking ways to keep current with evidenced based research, our programs help them identify optimum health-care practices so that our students in Somerset County are provided quality care. We keep our members informed about new legislative bills and laws, especially since we have a legislative liaison who attends monthly NJSSNA meetings. We strive to find creative ways to educate students, parents, community members and our own individual educational staff. As a framework for the 21 Century School Nursing Practice, we use the skills outlined in the practice components of each of the principles to help students and staff stay healthy, safe and ready to learn.
What is SCNSA mission and vision?
The SCSNA mission is to provide its members leadership, evidence-based research, educational and networking opportunities, legislative directives and healthcare advocacy that promotes and enhances student and community health and the practice of school nursing. School nurses bring valuable information gained at the programs back to their school environment, share it with their administration, their school BOE, the parents, the educational staff and most importantly are provided with the tools to properly care for their students. Our vision for the SCSNA is to provide county school nurses with opportunities to expand their knowledge and expertise that will empower students to be healthy, safe and engage in learning.
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The association also supports high school students who wish to attend college to pursue a career in nursing and also supports current school nurses who wish to continue educating themselves on the graduate level. Annually, we offer two scholarships that are funded by membership dues.
What was the purpose of the recent Professional Development Day?
Most school nurses employed in Somerset County participate in Professional Development Days (PDD) at their schools that are organized by their administrators and are very often teacher based in nature and scope. Being that school nurses are usually the only health care professional in their schools, they normally do not have an opportunity to meet, collaborate or attend appropriate programs geared towards school nursing during the schools scheduled PDD. Having an association that offers a full professional development workshop strictly geared for school nurses has proved very popular, been well attended and the feedback from the nurses that have attended is very positive.
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Additionally, as our involvement with the Healthier Somerset Coalition closely aligns with our mission and objectives, it seemed very reasonable to have the Somerset County’s CHIP initiatives shared at the PDD. This program provided our school nurses with ample time to share ideas that help to jump-start programs, collect data on initiatives currently implemented and working in schools, and discuss future programs that can be developed to achieve some of the initiatives that have yet to be met.
Why was it important for the CHIP priorities to be shared?
Sharing the CHIP priorities enables the school nurses to take a look at their school community and identify and prioritize areas in need of improvement or growth. It also assists us in educating the school staff as well as inciting their participation in this process for the best possible health outcome of the individual as well as the school community.
How will the CHIP priorities be incorporated into the work being done by the school nurses? Are there any examples that you can share?
Initiating and revitalizing school gardens, mental health first aid training programs within the association and the possibility of a school-based health center are just a few strategic initiatives that our organization will be working on. Some of the school nurses have already revitalized and started school gardens within the past two years. These nurses are instrumental in sharing their experience and knowledge of starting and maintaining a successful school garden to those school nurses wishing to do so currently. Our goal is to have a minimum of three school gardens begun or revitalized within the next two years. Mental health first aid training is being planned to take place in March when we do our CPR certifications with a goal of approximately 50% of our members being trained. School-based health center models, best-demonstrated practices, and development plan will be explored within the next year and a half for the potential launch of a school-based health center within a Somerset County school in need.
How can the School Nurses Association contribute to Healthier Somerset’s goal of making Somerset County the healthiest county in NJ?
Serena Collado, director of Community Health at RWJUH Somerset, spoke in detail to the school nurses at the PD Day about the CHIP. We then did a round table forum, breaking into four groups each representing a component of the CHIP. Each group reviewed and selected appropriate strategies to implement and track the progress of their schools in a collaborative effort to make Somerset County the healthiest county in New Jersey.
We look forward to organizing future SCSNA Dinner programs in collaboration with Healthier Somerset, so that school nurses can continue to brainstorm and work on programs that align with our mission and can also help to meet the CHIP goals and objectives.
To learn more about the SCSNA, visit www.somersetcountysna.org.
Healthier Somerset is a community coalition convened by RWJUH Somerset. It is comprised of over 50 members who are committed to working collaboratively by sharing information, creating alliances and increasing efforts to make Somerset County a healthy place to live and work. For more information, visit www.healthiersomerset.org.