Wilson County schools’ health screenings helping students

Staff Reports • Dec 17, 2015 at 5:55 PM

Wilson County schools’ health services and coordinated school health programs have increased the county’s health screening program almost six fold since 2007. 

About 23,000 health screenings are expected to be performed this year with a participation rate of 98 percent.  The expansion resulted in healthier students and the removal of educational barriers for countless children, officials said. 

Roughly one out of every 10 students screened are found to have vision problems, as well as one out of every 65 students is referred for hearing issues. 

Both barriers have educational implications for students, especially when considering the future of online state testing and web-based instruction.  One out of every 50 students who participate in the blood pressure screenings are referred for hypertension. 

Stories from school nurses and families prove the efforts are well worth it.

A family was amazed when their elementary student, who had relatively new glasses, had difficulties with the vision screening last fall.  A quick trip to their optometrist revealed the wrong lenses were inserted in the child’s frames. 

Countless reports come in every year detailing academic improvements when children participate in the vision screenings, are referred for follow up, and have their vision impairments addressed. 

Another story revealed a student who had trouble with the hearing screening followed up with a specialist to discover severe damage to the student’s ear drum. The student is scheduled for reconstructive surgery. 

A host of children have been found to have hypertension with no known history prior to their health screening. The common thread for most of these stories is if it were not for the district’s health screening program, the parents and students would not have known the problems existed. Early detection is vital to overcoming educational barriers and managing illnesses like hypertension, officials said.

An army of partners is needed in order for the team of 19 school nurses and two members of the coordinated school health program to administer nearly 23,000 health screenings each year. 

Dr. Pete Davis visits each elementary school after their vision screenings to provide free rescreens for any student who had difficulty. 

Tennessee State University’s Dr. Valerie Matlock works with her graduate-level audiology students to administer about 1,600 hearing screenings in middle schools each year. Dozens of Cumberland University senior nursing students join staffers to provide hearing, vision and blood pressure screenings of the highest quality. 

Partnerships with the high schools’ health sciences programs have increased the capacity and quality of our screening program. Annually, about 100 partners and volunteers are enlisted with registered nurse Donna Lawson, coordinator of health services, coordinating their efforts.

Nineteen school nurses in the district take on the daily task of preserving the health of almost 17,000 children. Their typical day is filled with dispensing medications, performing health care procedures for medically fragile students, delivering emergency care and providing medical support for healthy students, all while taking meticulous documentation of every action.

School nurses see their workload increase in the days following their school’s screening event. They will file the screening records, issue parent reports, make referrals and follow-up with parents to help ensure their children’s identified needs are addressed. 

This sequence helps to close the health screening process. 

Wilson County has a nurse on each campus within the district to support the health needs of students.

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