School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: Imagine the School Nurse as the Chief Wellness Officer

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My summers are spent teaching at Rutgers-Camden School of Nursing in the School Nurse Certificate Program. It is truly one of my most cherished roles and this summer was no exception. Every year I learn alongside my students, all who are adult learners returning to school to meet the state requirements to become school nurses. But truthfully, it is so much more than only meeting course requirements. The students are vulnerable, learning a new nursing specialty,  and challenging themselves in ways that they would not have predicted. It is my professional honor to teach the next generation of school nurses.

The summer course that just ended is called “Issues and Trends in Health Education.” In 2016, our faculty was a grantee of the New Jersey Nursing Initiative (NJNI) to redesign our program and infuse population health and leadership into our nursing curriculum. That opportunity allowed us to turn our program upside down and inside out and rebuild the components of the program to align with NASN’s Framework for 21st Century School Nursing Practice. The 2018 Cohort is the inaugural class of the newly redesigned program.

To prepare for teaching my course, in addition to updating the curriculum and syllabus,  I hunt and gather the latest trends in healthcare and education on social media.  I learn from the hours spent scouring Twitter and LinkedIn.  I have forged relationships with new colleagues doing groundbreaking work in the trending spaces of ACEs, Brain-based Discipline, Skills-based Health Education, Population Health, and Health Promotion.

In one of my learning reconnaissance missions, I came across a fascinating letter from Amy Gutmann, President of the University of Pennsylvania, announcing a new position. It was for a Chief Wellness Officer, with the following description: This campus leader will be responsible for furthering all aspects of wellness at Penn, including the combined oversight of CAPS, the Student Health Service, and the Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Program initiatives, which will together be called Student Wellness Services.”- Amy Gutmann, President  Here is a link to the full body of the letter: A Message to the Penn Community

My initial thought was that they were describing the role of a school nurse! A Chief Wellness Officer for Student Wellness Services is a more comprehensive title for the enormity of the services that school nurses bring to their communities. Language is important.  What would happen if we took on the role of Chief Wellness Officer in our schools, even if that was not our “official” title? Would it change the scope of our practice?

A series of questions came to mind. Imagine if your actual role was Chief Wellness Officer (CWO), would you do anything differently? How would your work expand if indeed you were known as the CWO of your school? What would happen if you started your school year with this understanding?

I decided to share this thought with my Rutgers students and they enthusiastically embraced the idea. I am hoping it expands their definition of school nursing.  When they enter this independent specialty nursing practice, it will be as the Chief Wellness Officer of their school, responsible for Student Wellness! Let’s join them as school is set to begin for the 2018-2019 school year.

1 thought on “The Relentless School Nurse: Imagine the School Nurse as the Chief Wellness Officer”

  1. Your blog is always so very informative & enthusiastic. I like your idea about incorporating the CWO into your school nursing program & Kudos to Amy Gutman.
    So proud of you.

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