School Nursing

The Relentless School Nurse: The Journey of School Nurse Entrepreneur, Renee Woodworth

Plan. Prepare. React. This is the tagline to the school safety-specific emergency bag that Renee Woodworth designed for school nurses. Her background in emergency nursing, mass casualty, and emergency response makes her perfectly suited to design this much needed “Go Bag.” Human-centered design is at the heart of the REACT Bag, the product that Renee has created for use by school nurses across the country.
The story of the creation of REACT Bags will sound familiar to so many of us. Who has not reached for our “Go Bag” in September and find that many of the components are either expired or not useful!  In 2015, Renee worked as a school nurse in Southern California. She became quickly aware that emergency preparedness resources were lacking. Here is a description from the website:

While inspecting her districts’ disaster supply lockers and discussing school disaster preparedness with other school nurses from San Diego county, she identified several areas of concern:

  • There is not a comprehensive kit on the market available to easily provide large group settings the supplies they need to be prepared for active shooters, tornados, hurricanes, fires, etc.

  • Disaster supplies are often placed in difficult to reach places and are not strategically located where they can be accessed during an emergency

  • Supplies are often kept “out of sight, out of mind” and although a site might be well-stocked, those supplies are long EXPIRED.

It became her mission to develop and put to market emergency response kits in the hopes that our schools, churches and businesses can PLAN, PREPARE to respond and REACT to emergencies with our comprehensive kits to help minimize serious injuries and even loss of life.

In addition to creating REACT Bags, Renee is a blogger with a specific message about the school nurses expanding and important role in school safety. Here is an example of a recent blog that Renee wrote about Threat Assessment Teams and how school nurses must be at the table!
Considerations in School Safety and Threat Assessment Teams and the Integral Role of the School Nurse 

Over the past 18 months, I have taken a deep dive in school safety and emergency preparedness. As a nationally credentialed school nurse, emergency nurse and disaster response nurse, my findings have been alarming. When developing school safety teams and school threat assessment teams, many school districts do not include the school nurse as part of that team.

Of the over 1,000 attendees at the National School Threat Assessment Conference two weeks ago, three were school nurses.

School safety studies list mental health factors in their findings but never identify school health needs as they relate to safety.  Imagine students with limited mobility, vision and hearing limitations, severe autism and diabetes not being considered in the school safety plans.  How do we manage our diabetics during a lockdown?  The input of the school nurse is integral to the school safety conversation.

In the 2018 Virginia School and Division Safety Study, school nurses are NOT listed as a member of the threat assessment team, nor are they mentioned anywhere in the study results.   The assumption is that school nurses fall under the mental health umbrella. However, school nurses know many students present to their health office with complaints of headache, stomachache, and chronic fatigue; school nurses recognize that these complaints are often symptoms of mental health distress or illness. Their role in recognizing these complaints as symptoms is crucial to initiating important referrals to school counselors and mental health providers.

A few things for schools to consider:

1. Is there a school nurse on your School Safety/Emergency Preparedness/Threat Assessment Team?

School nurses provide valuable information about student health which is essential in emergency planning especially when considering students’ specialized healthcare needs.  How will student healthcare needs be managed during lockdown?  How will students with physical limitations be supported during an emergency evacuation?

Additionally, prior to purchasing emergency preparedness resources for the schools, consultation with the school nurse is essential to ensure the appropriate medical kits (go bags, bleeding control kits, classroom backpacks and lockdown buckets) are acquired and placed in appropriate locations on campus for easy access and use.

 2. Does your school have wellness team?

Create a regular meeting with the school nurse, counselor, social worker, SRO and school administrator to discuss students with specific needs (family, health, housing, safety, education, etc.) so you can start to understand student needs early on and implement strategies for management of their health and safety requirements.

3. Consider developing a school nurse/SRO (school resource officer) partnership. This allows both school nurses and SROs to provide care in the safest possible environment. I often hear from SROs that when the school nurse is at another school, the School Resource Officer becomes the first responder administering First Aid. Working together and understanding the SROs concerns about student safety and wellness helps ensure our students needs are met even when school nurses are not available or vice versa. Perhaps schedule a weekly school nurse/SRO “walk-about”.

4. Require a health office assessment after a student’s extended absence. Research has shown that incidents of targeted violence show many early warning signs and often occur after a student has returned from a period of extended absence (inpatient hospital stay, suspension, etc.). Perhaps it would be good practice to have students “check-in” either with the school nurse or the counselor prior to returning to their regular schedule to perform a student needs/wellness assessment?

Here is the link to the Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center (NTAC) School Safety Resources which you might find helpful in your planning and practice.

Written by Renee Woodworth, BSN, RN, NCSN

Renee Woodworth, BSN, RN, NCSN
Bio: Renee Woodworth is a Nationally Certified School Nurse (NCSN), who recently started her own business, REACT Bags, creating school specific emergency response kits.
Renee began her career in the US Navy as an ER nurse and transitioned after 7 years to civilian Emergency and Urgent Care Nursing.  Additionally, she has worked in community clinics, Same Day Surgery, PACU, Family Practice and most recently as a school nurse in Southern California.
Renee assisted as a shelter nurse during Hurricane Katrina, has participated in multiple other medically-based, community response projects and volunteers with the Medical Reserve Corps,.  Her career diversity over 21 years and passion for school nursing and emergency/disaster response led her to start her own business in the fall of 2018.
Renee is a Marine Corps spouse and mother of three children and is passionate about increasing awareness surrounding the role of the school nurse in school safety teams while creating the best possible medical response kits for the school setting.
Links to Renee’s website and resource page:
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