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Wisconsin Association of School Nurses (WASN) state conference.

School nurses focus on identifying, removing, or minimizing health related barriers to learning. Wisconsin has 426 public school districts, kindergarten through grade 12(K-12), educating 873,690 students in 2,236 schools. In addition, there are 948 private schools that enroll 144,780 students. This means that on a daily basis 1,018,470 K-12 students, representing 19% of our state's 5,362,881 population, need to be free from health related barriers in order to be successful in their "job" of ultimately earning a high school diploma.

Wisconsin ranks 38th out of all states in the school nurse to student ratio, or one nurse to every 1,589 students in the public schools. The national range is from one nurse to 298 students in Vermont to one nurse to 4,274 in Michigan. Until last year when the state released funds to improve the ratio, Utah had the dubious distinction of being "last" with a ratio of 1:5,539. There is not an easy way to assess the nurse to student ratio in private schools.

School RNs work in relative professional isolation and are typically the only health professional in a school. Even if a school district has more than one nurse, the majority of positions are part-time, and the typical assignment is four buildings that are often separated geographically. Professional development and an opportunity to network with others are important for all professions, but in positions such as school nursing, conferences are a lifeline.

Over 200 School Nurses from across the state gathered in Pewaukee, Wisconsin on Thursday and Friday, April 24-25, 2008 for the Wisconsin Association of School Nurses (WASN) annual conference. This conference is coordinated and facilitated by Wisconsin Nurses Association who are co-sponsors along with the Department of Public Instruction. A separate day-long orientation session for new school nurses was the day prior. The general conference had 2 keynote presentations and 36 breakout sessions to choose from. And if that was not enough school nurses could attend in-depth interactive pre-conference workshops Wednesday evening. One of these pre-conference workshops allowed the school nurses to wear an insulin pump for 24 hours so they could experience firsthand the advantages and frustrations of their students. Another group attended a very interactive session where they learned Spanish for health care workers. And still others learned assessment and taping of athletic injuries, oral health screening and how to properly weigh and measure children. This was the jump start to the conference.

Dr. Barbara Frankowski, Professor of Pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital opened the conference by speaking to the school nurses on enabling children to build on student's strengths and avoid activities that would put their health at risk. She stated that school nurses are integral in this arena because we know these students, we see them often and we see them on their own turf. It is important to identify risks, but she stressed that strengths are an essential part of health. She provided several frameworks to identify student's strengths and resiliency. The research from the Search Institute shows the more strengths an adolescent has the less likely they are to engage in risky behaviors. If we identify those strengths we can foster them and in the long run promote a healthier student population. She also encouraged us to become knowledgeable about and adept at motivational interviewing.

Dr. Jane Chevako, Emergency Medicine Director at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, reminded us to be empathetic in her presentation entitled "Sometimes You Just Have to be Patient". Starting out as the cowardly lion from the Wizard of Oz she used costumes, poetry, stories and songs as she recounted her many experiences as a patient and the impact and importance of the nurses caring for her. In between these two wonderful keynoters the nurses had a plethora of choices for continuing their education.

The sessions were divided into curricular, personal improvement, administrative, and clinical strands. Some were disease or syndrome specific such as celiac, asthma, diabetes and oral health. New immunization guidelines, legal aspects of school nursing, the special education individual education plan (IEP) process and dealing with students who are grappling with their sexual identity attracted many of the participants. Some chose personal improvement sessions such as Yoga for Self and Students, Personal Investment and Retirement, and Writing Your Own Personal Development Plan (PDP).

A highlight of this year's conference was the legislative breakfast on Friday morning. Area legislators were invited and Representative Scott Newcomer attended. Joan Simpson, President-Elect of WASN and Twyla Lato, member of the WASN legislative committee presented informative data regarding the status of school nursing in the State of Wisconsin. Representative Newcomer encouraged school nurses to become active in the legislative process.

Senator Judy Robson, long time school nursing advocate, was presented with a special award from WASN for her tireless efforts on behalf of our practice. She was instrumental in obtaining funding in the current state budget for school nursing services. Senator Robson applauded our efforts and encouraged us to be informed and active citizens. She further explained we have a great opportunity ahead of us as there are five nurses running for office in the upcoming election. What a wonderful time for all of us. We are a power to contend with.

The Association's annual meeting was held on Thursday. The business of the organization was conducted and included election of new officers President-Joan Simpson, New Richmond; President-Elect Ann Riojas, Milwaukee; Treasurer Connie Troyanek, West Salem; and Secretary Holly Bauer, Iola.

The celebration of our peers is an anticipated event and this year was no disappointment. Diane Hamilton, School Nurse for East Troy School District was announced as the 2008 Wisconsin School Nurse of the year. School Nursing received more recognition as Isa Chase, School Nurse for Franklin School District, was honored as the 2008 Wisconsin Pediatric Nurse Practitioner by her professional organization WAP-NAP.

The essential ingredient of this conference is the networking and meeting peers from across the state. Many new friendships are forged at this conference and old ones are rekindled. School nurses may represent a small percentage of all professional nurses, but there is little question that their potential impact on the health of our future generation is huge.

Submitted by Rosemary P. Dolatowski RN MS WASN District 6 Director
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Author:Dolatowski, Rosemary P.
Publication:STAT Bulletin
Date:Jul 1, 2008
Previous Article:RN delegates to ANA's biennial meeting take action to work toward greater nurse retention, address public health issues.
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