Originally published Aug. 29, 2011
In Dawson County, a Special Education class was enjoying a party outside. As the temperature increased and the children became more active, one of the students had an asthma attack. The child had trouble breathing and collapsed. 911 was called, and the school nurse performed an emergency evaluation, administered emergency rescue medications, and stabilized the child before the paramedics arrived, essentially saving the student’s life.
“This would not have been possible without the vital partnership that was established when District 2 Public Health Director Dr. David Westfall provided school nurses with guidelines for treating students with asthma and anaphylaxis,” said Jeannie Edwards, Dawson County’s Lead School Nurse.
Nebulizers, tubing and pulse oximeters, along with asthma training called Managing Asthma Triggers is being provided to school nurses via archived webinars funded by the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) Asthma Program and the Georgia Association of School Nurses. The nurses received the vital equipment needed that reduce ER visits and transports through a grant written by the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Program (HPDPP) School Wellness Liaison.
Asthma is the second leading health problem among school-aged children and accounts for a significant percentage of school absences. The cost of asthma hospitalization charges was more than $124 million in 2006. Efforts have focused on maximizing management of asthma in public and private school settings to enhance health, attendance and academic achievement of students with asthma.
Asthma training for Georgia school nurses is easily accessed at their convenience via free webinars. The training is linked through the website for the Georgia Association of School Nurses (GASN), www.gasn.org. In addition, GASN members that complete the four modules of the webinar series receive a free pulse oximeter for use in their clinics. Nebulizers are essential for delivering asthma medication, particularly for smaller children, and these have been provided to many school nurses through this partnership.
Asthma is just one chronic condition that is keeping students out of school. There are many others and students are paying the price by missing out on much of their education. In Georgia, where 10 percent of children have asthma, the cost of having a school nurse to manage students with disabilities and chronic conditions is priceless. Without this collaboration, there would be increased school absences, increased 911 calls to schools, increased hospitalizations, and increased numbers of parents having to miss work because of students’ absences.
“The case in Dawson County is a perfect example of why the collaboration works between public health, school nurses, and GASN,” said Edwards. “The life of a student was saved because a school nurse was on the premises, properly prepared and equipped to effectively intervene.”