The Future of School Nursing
Don’t you wish you had a crystal ball? If only! Predicting the future with accuracy is difficult, but we can make some educated guesses based on current trends and advancements in healthcare technology. Before we jump into the future, let’s look at what nursing looked like 20+ years ago.
School nursing in the year 2000 was quite different from what it is today and what it might be in the future. Let’s take a trip to the year 2000.
- Limited Scope of Practice: In 2000, school nurses primarily provided first aid and emergency care to students. They were not typically involved in providing ongoing medical care or involved as deeply in managing chronic health conditions.
- Minimal Use of Technology: School nurses in 2000 did not have access to the same technology as today’s nurses. Electronic health records, telehealth, and remote monitoring devices were not widely available, so nurses relied primarily on paper records and face-to-face consultations.
- Focus on Infectious Disease Control: In 2000, school nurses became more involved in controlling infectious diseases. In some districts, they administered vaccinations, conducted health screenings, and implemented infection control protocols to prevent the spread of diseases such as measles, mumps, and chickenpox.
- Limited Mental Health Services: Mental health issues were not yet a primary focus of school nurses in 2000. While some school nurses provided counseling services or referrals to mental health professionals, mental health was not yet recognized as a significant issue impacting student health and wellness.
- Varied Qualifications: In 2000, the qualifications of school nurses varied widely. Some were registered nurses with specialized training in school nursing, while others were licensed practical nurses or had less formal healthcare training.
Overall, school nursing in 2000 was focused primarily on providing emergency care, managing infectious diseases, and administering basic healthcare services. The role of school nursing has since evolved to become more comprehensive and collaborative, with an increased focus on promoting student health and wellness through ongoing care, education, and technology.
Now and Into the Future
What might the near-term future of school nursing look like?
Health Information Exchange
Health Information Exchange is the electronic sharing of health-related information between healthcare providers, systems, and stakeholders. A health information exchange that includes school health care, has the potential to allow for easy exchange of student health data between schools and other health professionals, whether they be in the emergency room or a child’s primary care physician.
There are plenty of great reasons for an exchange like this. It can give healthcare providers a fuller picture of a student’s health. It’s easier to avoid duplicate tests or procedures. It can assist with continuity of care if a student needs to be monitored at school after a diagnosis or emergency room visit.
The big challenge facing districts interested in a health information exchange is the security and privacy of student data and of course, regulations that limit the feasibility.
Still, there are smaller-scale examples of health information exchanges in action now. Depending on your state, immunization registries are a way for districts to connect their vaccination tracking to state information, making it easier than ever for districts to collect up-to-date vaccination information about students.
Let’s see what school nursing might look like in the next ten years…
The Future of School Nursing in 2033
In 2033, school nursing will be integral to the healthcare system. With advancements in healthcare technology and an increased focus on preventive care, school nurses will likely play a vital role in promoting student health and wellness. Here’s what school nursing might look like in 2033.
- Increased Use of Telehealth: With the advent of telehealth technology, school nurses may provide care remotely, and they might use video conferencing to consult with students, parents, and healthcare providers.
- Enhanced Health Education: School nurses will likely play a more prominent role in providing health education to students. This might include instruction on healthy eating, physical activity, stress management, and mental health. Nurses would work collaboratively with teachers and counselors to provide a holistic approach to student health.
- Collaboration with Mental Health Professionals: Mental health issues are becoming increasingly common among students. In 2033, school nurses will expand their collaboration with mental health professionals to provide comprehensive care for students. This may involve providing mental health screenings or referrals to mental health professionals.
- Emphasis on Preventive Care: In 2033, school nurses will likely focus on preventive care to promote student health and wellness. This may include routine health screenings, immunizations, and promoting healthy habits such as regular exercise and a balanced diet.
- Integration of Technology: In the future, school nurses will rely on technology to improve efficiency and accuracy. Electronic health records will allow nurses to quickly access student health information, while wearable technology will provide real-time data on student health. Remote monitoring devices will also allow nurses to track student health and wellness data, which can be used to identify health issues early on.
School nursing in 2033 will be a critical component of the healthcare system. With the increased use of telehealth, enhanced health education, collaboration with mental health professionals, emphasis on preventive care, and technology integration, school nurses will promote student health and wellness in comprehensive and innovative ways.
What might school nursing look like in 20 years?
It’s hard to imagine what school nursing might look like in 2043 years, but it doesn’t hurt to imagine! Here are some technological advancements we might see:
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) integration: In 2043, school nurses might use AI and ML technologies to help diagnose and treat common student health issues. For example, AI and ML algorithms might help nurses identify early signs of certain diseases, such as diabetes or asthma, by analyzing a student’s health data.
- Personalized Medicine: Advances in genetics and personalized medicine may allow school nurses to tailor healthcare treatments based on a student’s unique genetic makeup. By analyzing a student’s DNA, nurses may be able to identify potential health risks and develop personalized treatment plans to prevent those risks from turning into full-blown health problems.
- Robotics and Automation: As robotics technology advances, school nurses might use robots to assist in patient care. For example, robots might deliver medication, check vitals, or assist with physical therapy exercises.
- Virtual and Augmented Reality: In 2043, school nurses might use virtual and augmented reality technologies to provide immersive healthcare experiences for students. For example, students might be able to “visit” a doctor or healthcare professional in a virtual reality environment, or augmented reality might be used to provide real-time feedback on student health status.
- Predictive Analytics: With the increasing availability of health data, school nurses might use predictive analytics to identify students at risk of developing specific health issues. By analyzing large amounts of health data, nurses might be able to predict which students are most likely to develop specific health problems and intervene before those problems become severe.
- EHRs Become a Need-to-Have (Not a Nice-to-Have): While some districts currently think they can use a health module within their SIS, districts are likely going to realize long before 2043 that having a dedicated EHR made for K-12 will be the only tool qualified to support ever-evolving student health needs. With mental health at the forefront of everyone’s concerns for student health, software that takes a holistic approach to student health will become crucial.
The role of school nursing will continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of students. Nurses will play a critical role in promoting student health and wellness and will collaborate with other healthcare professionals and technology to provide comprehensive care. While you may not feel ready for all that the future holds for school nurses, there are small changes you can make to prepare. Check out these resources to learn more:
Buying Guide A Buyer’s Guide to K-12 Electronic Health Records Systems
Blog What to Look for in an EHR
Blog A School Bus Trip to New School Year Success: School Health Edition