School Nursing: The Tipping Point for Health for Vulnerable Families

Creating opportunities to build a diverse and knowledgeable school nurse workforce in Milwaukee

Full Project Name:School Nursing: The tipping point for health for vulnerable familiesPrimary Community Organization:University of Wisconsin‐Milwaukee College of NursingPrimary Academic Partner:Syed Ahmed, MD, MPH, DrPH, Family and Community MedicineAward Amount:47,163
Award Date
July2008
Project Duration:12 months

Project Description Narrative:


School nursing is a specialized practice of professional nursing that advances the well-being, academic success, and life-long achievement of students. School nurses facilitate positive student responses to normal development, promote health and safety, intervene with actual and potential health problems, provide case management services, and actively collaborate with other to build student and family capacity for adaptation, self-management, self-advocacy and learning. Today's school nurses must also manage problems associated with absenteeism, poverty, communicable disease, sexuality, diversity, immigration, lack of health care, safety, and chronic illnesses.

Despite this important role, Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) have struggled to identify resources to recruit and retain nurses. While the National Association of School Nurses guidelines recommend a student-to-nurse ratio of 750:1 for the general school population, MPS ratios have approximated a ratio of 8500:1. With a commitment from MPS to hire dedicated nurses, a need to recruit nurses with school nursing specialty preparation and experience is a new challenge for the Milwaukee community.

Through this award, project partners aim to support a diverse and knowledgeable school nurse work force, concentrating on the needs in Milwaukee Public Schools, by building organization and system capacity within MPS and other school districts and developing a school nursing certificate program.

Community partners:
Milwaukee Public Schools

Additional MCW academic partner:
Staci Young, PhD, Family and Community Medicine

Outcomes & Lessons Learned:


• Gathered input from nurses working in Milwaukee-area schools via a focus group and survey, using responses to inform curriculum development and content for a school nurse certification

• Conducted a systematic review of the literature to identify practices, standards, and guidelines used in other states, as well as relevant content, to inform curriculum development for a school nurse certification

• Secured support from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee College of Nursing on the feasibility of launching a school nurse certificate program, including a cost analysis and elective course option identification

• Identified a future opportunity to consider ways to provide an accessible career path for licensed practical nurses (LPNs) currently working in the school to complete their RN degrees

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