Five school nurses from the Cherry Creek School District were selected as 2015 Fellows for the prestigious Rutgers/Johnson & Johnson School Health Leadership Program, held July 12-17 at Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey.
They are among just 60 school nurses selected for this nationally recognized fellowship program that helps school nurses advance their knowledge and practice in community health, wellness and chronic disease management. Participants in the program learn about different school and community health techniques during training programs, online sessions, customized mentoring and the development of community-based health promotion initiatives.
The CCSD school nurses who participated in the program are:
• Jennifer Ellerbroek, MSN, RN district resource nurse for elementary schools
• Brandon Loy, BSN, RN, Eastridge Community Elementary school nurse
• Suzanne Oro, MSN, RN Director of Health Services
• Teresa Ross, MSN, RN,
• Jennifer Stone, BSN,MA, RN Smoky Hill High School school nurse
They all agreed that participating in the program and having the opportunity to work with national health experts and other school nurses was a life-changing experience.
“I found the program inspiring,” said Brandon Loy, Eastridge Community Elementary school nurse. “This program really opened my eyes to the power of my position and my responsibility to promote and support the health and well-being of my students and our entire community.”
“It was rigorous, extensive, and as our main lead said, ‘a marathon, not a sprint,’ which is how I like to think of school nursing,” said Jennifer Ellerbroek, district resource nurse for elementary schools. “We are here for the long run. We will always be learning, growing, improving and creating paths for our students that decrease barriers to learning and increase their ability to be present in their learning. This experience has been one of my greatest accomplishments and the most specific education I have received for my role as a school nurse.”
During the program, participants had to identify a specific health issue within their district and develop a plan to address the issue and positively impact the health of their students and community. The CCSD team chose asthma management.
“Asthma is the number-one reason kids miss school,” said Suzanne Oro, CCSD Director of Health Services. “We have more than 5,200 asthmatic students in our district. That’s enough to fill 104 school buses.”
During the 2014-15 school year, CCSD students visited their school clinics 18,273 times because of asthma and respiratory illnesses. Asthmatic students are more susceptible to things like the enterrovirus and influenza, which resulted in many students being hospitalized or staying home sick and missing important instructional time last year.
While CCSD already has strong asthma emergency practices and protocols in place, Oro explained that the district wants to do more to help asthmatic students manage the disease and prevent asthma emergencies.
“We know that lost instructional time has a negative impact on student achievement,” Oro said. “So we want to help kids stay healthy so they can stay in school. The National Association of School Nurses reports that when a student’s asthma is well controlled, he or she stays in class, performs better academically, parents can remain at work and the community as a whole benefits.”
The CCSD school nurses who took part in the Johnson & Johnson School Health Leadership Program had to go through a rigorous application and selection process. They also applied for and received a grant which covered the cost of their participation. They join 700 school nurses from around the world who have participated in the program since its inception in 1988.