The history of the Johnson & Johnson School Health Leadership Program (JJSHLP) began the summer of 1988 when the very first group of school nurses and administrators attended a week-long professional development program in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Since 1988, the program has admitted 900 school nurses and community partners from all over the globe. This nationally recognized fellowship program includes curriculum and opportunities designed to support school nurses and their community partners to become leaders within their community’s educational and health services teams to improve student health practices. J&J Fellows are a proud group of school health leaders whose enthusiasm is contagious and allegiance to the program notable.
When I first learned about the program in 2000, I knew that I wanted to participate in this powerful experience. I was hungry for the high-level professional development that would provide the tools needed to enable me to practice to my highest ability in order to meet the needs of my complex school community. My desire was great, but I was unable to garner enough support in my district to create a team to join me for a summer institute of intensive learning.
My relentless nature was restless and frustrated, but I continued to pursue the opportunity, year after year, for 14 years! In the Fall of 2014, when the application opened again, I stopped banging my head against the same wall, picked up the phone and called the Program Manager, Danielle Cooper. I explained that I was a Camden, New Jersey school nurse who had been trying to create a team to apply for JJSHLP for 14 years but could not garner support. I proposed some alternatives, joining another team or creating a county team. Danielle listened to my story and while that was not a typical constellation for a team, she encouraged me to try one of the options and apply. I put out an inquiry on the School Nurse Net and through the power of social media, it worked!
Our Camden County team was accepted to join the 2015 Cohort, along with teams from all over the country. For me, as for so many who have participated in the Fellowship, the JJSHLP, was like a leadership “moonshot.” The purpose of the program is to learn the skills to implement change projects in your school communities. Since 1988, over 900 school districts from all over the US and internationally have had teams of J&J Fellows, led by school nurses, making a difference in their communities. The initiatives that Fellows implement in their communities is often just the beginning of their leadership journey. JJSHLP has been a springboard for school nurses to find their collective voices.
We are at a crossroads right now with our beloved J&J Fellowship program. At this time, our funder, Johnson & Johnson, has placed future funds on hold and has not provided an official statement of the status of the program. For the first time in many years, there will be no presence of J&J at our NASN Conference and no pre-conference programming for Fellows.
I am asking that the 900 Fellows come together at this time and share your stories of how being a Fellow has impacted your practice. Please share your outcomes and send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s join in a collective voice and express our thanks to our generous funder and share stories and outcomes of how being a Fellow has changed School Nursing over the past three decades. Perhaps if we present outcomes of how being a Fellow has impacted not only our practice but the health outcomes of the students and communities we serve, we can open a new discussion with J&J to release funds for our beloved program.