NJSSNA Leadership Academy:  100 School Nurses, 100 School Leaders!

On a beautiful October Saturday, one hundred members of the New Jersey State School Nurses Association traveled to the Star and Barry Tobias Health Awareness Center at CentraState Medical Center in Freehold to discover their inner leader. NJSSNA president Brenda Porter, school nurse in East Orange, welcomed the school nurses and then Linda Morse, executive director of NJSSNA, explained why the workshop focused on leadership:   “Leaders are visionaries with a poorly developed sense of fear and no concept of the odds  against them.”  That quote from Robert Jarvik, inventor of the artificial heart, seemed appropriate and timely for the state’s school nurses.

In the first session, NJSSNA’s NASN Director Mary Suessmann, a school nurse Livingston, told the group how to use the mandated Nursing Services Plan to support school nursing practice.  Mary stressed the importance of using standardized acuity levels to describe the level of care needed and urged school nurses to discuss the Nursing Services Plan with the school physician and the child study team.  Lorraine Borek, a school nurse supervisor from Hillsborough in Somerset County, told the group how to put the “Plan into Practice.”
Lorraine spoke about nursing acuity levels in more detail and explained how health conditions impact a student’s ability to learn.  She shared forms that school nurses can use
to collect information for the Nursing Services Plan.  Next, Marie Peppas, past-president of NJSSNA and a school nurse in Washington Township (Morris County), spoke about 504
plans.  Marie provided an overview of case law and how it impacts school nursing practice.  Finally, all three presenters took questions from the participants.

The next session focused on school nurse evaluations.  Linda Morse explained that the NJDOE’s Teacher Evaluation Pilot Project (http://www.state.nj.us/education/EE4NJ/faq/)
does not plan to address the evaluation of educational services personnel such as certified school nurses.    In response to the pilot project, NJSSNA conducted an online survey focused on school nurse observation and evaluations. The survey revealed that most evaluations are conducted by a principal using a teacher-focused evaluation tool rather than a nursing-specific tool.  As part of the survey, NJSSNA collected several sample evaluation tools that address health and education parameters and NJSSNA will consider developing sample evaluation templates.  Next, Rosemary Green, NJSSNA standards and practice chair and a school nurse in East Windsor, provided an overview of the newly updated NASN/ANA Standards of School Nursing Practice. At the conclusion of the session, participants were asked “Are you ready for an evaluation based on these rigorous standards?”

Last but not least, participants were asked to develop a 30-60 second elevator speech, explaining why a school should hire a certified school nurse.  Each team developed a message for a particular audience: school board members, parents of special needs children, administrators, faculty members, parents of high school kids, parents of K-8 kids, students, State Board of Education members, community health agencies and organizations and, last but not least, the Governor and State Legislature.  Each message was posted and shared with the entire group.  The messages will be posted on the NJSSNA website soon.

Last but not least, five lucky school nurses were selected to receive “prizes:”  a gift basket full of NJSSNA-logo items, a copy of the new NASN/ANA Standards of School Nursing Practice, two copies of the School Nurse Resource Manual donated by School Health Alert, and a $25 voucher  good towards any future NJSSNA-sponsored professional development workshop or conference.

By the end of the day, the 100 school nurse leaders were tired but motivated and eager to share what they learned with colleagues.  But there was one last thing…….

CentraState’s very own “Bicycle Hannah” made a surprise visit and explained how she visits schools to talk about health and safety.  Pedaling her way into the classroom, Hannah invited the school nurses to visit the CentraState Health Awareness Center where they could check out the “snotty nose” and learn about the many programs the center provides for children and adults.    Stephanie O’Neill from the Health Awareness Center led a grand tour and explained the school outreach program.  For more information on the Center, go to http://www.ambulatorycampus.com/Student-Health-Awareness-Center-SHAC.asp.

Many thanks to all the presenters, the 100 school nurses who gave up a Saturday of leisure to become better leaders, and Stephanie and the staff at CentraState for their welcoming hospitality!  Remember  the thought of the day:  If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu!

Bicycle Hannah tells the school nurses about health and safety while Brenda Porter, NJSSNA president, and Stephanie O’Neill from CentraState Health Awareness Center stand by.

School Nurses: Leading, Teaching Caring!



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