By Tracy Pereira
The Westport Community Schools nursing staff are working to improve the overall health of their students in more ways than just applying bandages and checking temperatures. School nurses can touch the lives of children in ways that reach beyond the school day, acting as a positive influence on their overall health.
Diane DaPonte, RN at Westport Middle School, has started a support group for students with diabetes at the school. Working with the guidance department she leads a group of students in a small group setting during school hours.
“We meet monthly and the students are pretty excited for each session.” The students have been very open about sharing their experiences, successes and challenges with each other, and enjoy the small group setting feeling comfortable with one another. This time together builds relationships that are invaluable to children dealing with a serious chronic illness. One student said that “talking about diabetes in school is really helping me out.”
Learning about germs and the effects of good hand washing is part of a program Nicole Machado, RN at Westport Elementary School, has introduced to second grade students with the help of a “Glo-germ” presentation provided by BMC Healthnet. Students apply the “glo-germ” product to their hands and wash it off. Then using a special lamp that makes the “germs” glow, students are shown whether or not their hand washing techniques are effective.
“They enjoyed the presentation it and were fascinated by how the glow lamp showed them if their hand washing technique was effective at removing “pretend germs,” said Ms. Machado.
Alice A. Macomber Primary School nurse, Tracy Pereira, RN, encourages healthy eating among the Kindergarten students by rewarding students with a sticker if they are eating a fruit or a vegetable during lunch.
“The students really look forward to showing me what they have brought from home or are eating from the school lunch.” Healthy eating is one of the healthy habits the nurses want to encourage at this early age.
Being active is another healthy habit that is crucial to lifelong wellness. Opportunities for after-school sports are held at the middle and high schools. The elementary and primary schools have afterschool activities, through the WES/MAC PTO, that encourage movement including gymnastics, hip-hop dancing, and sports. Some are instructed by the school nurse like “Yoga for Kids” and line dancing at Macomber school.
“It’s important that school age children are active for at least one hour everyday … Activities like sports, yoga, and dancing are seen as just having fun, not exercising,” said Ms. Pereira.
We want to be a part of teaching students healthy lifestyle choices now that will lead to their being healthy adults. It is a part of the school nurse role that all of the nurses enjoy.