How School Nurses are Keeping the Flu out of School

  • February 13, 2014
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School nurses are leading the way in fighting the flu.

Today we’re proud to feature a guest blog by Linda Gibbons, a member of HSC’s School Nurse Advisory Committee and Executive Secretary of the Illinois Association of School Nurses.

By Linda Gibbons, RN, MSN, IL/NCSN; Executive Secretary, Illinois Association of School Nurses

Winter is here, and we know that schoolchildren possess a great talent for spreading the flu. Every year the flu is responsible for 38,000 lost school days and can kill otherwise healthy children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 90 percent of the children who died from the flu during the 2012-2013 season were not vaccinated and 43 percent of all children who died between 2004 and 2012 did not have any underlying high-risk health condition.

The good news is that the flu can be prevented. For everyone six months of age and older, getting the flu vaccine every year is the most important weapon in stopping the spread of this disease among children, school staff and in the broader community.

School nurses can play a big role in reducing school absences due to all health issues, including the flu. That’s why it's wonderful to see Chicago Public Schools (CPS) school nurses leading the way in educating students and their families about the importance of flu vaccination. CPS nursing leaders have identified 50 elementary schools to work with on Keep Flu Out of School, a five-year project funded by the CDC that educates elementary school teachers, their students and students’ families about the importance of the flu vaccine.

This school year:

  • Two classrooms in each school will receive educational resources about the importance of the flu vaccine, such as coloring books available in both English and Spanish.

  • Information will be sent home with students to help educate both students and their families about the need for the flu vaccine.

  • Families will be told where they can go in the community to receive flu vaccines and the school nurse will also inform families why their children should receive the flu vaccine each year.

Principals of participating schools have been invited to become allies in fighting the flu in schools. The ultimate goal is for all elementary students to receive the flu vaccine each year.

The Certified/Licensed School Nurses of CPS are working with the National Association of School Nurses’ Director of Nursing Education Nichole Bobo; the National Association of School Nurses; the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases-Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition; and the Families Fighting Flu on this important project.

Twenty-two CPS school nurses have volunteered to participate despite their full caseloads because they want to improve the health of their students and keep students in school. Linda Clarke, RN, MSN, PEL-CSN (a graduate of HSC’s School Nurse Leadership Program) and Angela Lepkowski, RN, BSN, PEL-CSN have accepted lead responsibility for this project. Robin Bruscato, Joycie McCoy, Beverly Horne, and Patrice Barton are also graduates of HSC’s School Nurse Leadership Program who have volunteered to participate in this project. It is great to see them continuing to be leaders in school health in CPS.

We look forward to following the wonderful work of our School Nurse Leadership Program graduates and sharing more about this important project.

We are also excited to recognize school nurses through our first annual School Nurse Leadership Award. You can learn more about the award and download an application here. We are accepting applications through March 7, 2014.