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FOR RELEASE: October 1, 2002
CONTACT: Pamela Williams

School Nurses Celebrate 100 Years of Caring During Child Health Month

Gov. Frank Keating has proclaimed October as Child Health Month and Oct. 7 as Child Health Day in Oklahoma to draw attention to the health needs of children and how school nurses and county health nurses provide health services to children on a daily basis. This year’s observance will kick-off a yearlong celebration of the 100th anniversary of school nursing practice. Events planned during the year will celebrate the importance of school nurses to public health in controlling and preventing diseases.

On Oct.1, 1902, school nursing emerged following the "experimental" placement of a public health nurse in a New York City school. The extraordinary work of America’s first school nurse, Lina Rogers Struthers, R.N., in reducing school absenteeism due to communicable diseases, quickly led to the employment of school nurses in New York City and across the country. Today more than 58,000 RNs are employed as school nurses, with more than 250 nurses employed as school nurses in Oklahoma.

Many adults remember school health consisting of lessons about first aid, the four food groups and occasional visits to the school nurse for minor illnesses or injuries. While these issues continue, today’s school health programs face a new array of difficult problems such as violence, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide, and increasing numbers of students with chronic health disorders such as asthma and diabetes.

In local communities, schools, school nurses, and county health departments are partnering to promote comprehensive health programs to reach students and their families with information on health promotion and disease prevention. “I work with the school nurses by coordinating the programs for schools like hearing and vision screening and chronic health problems like asthma and diabetes. It is challenging with so many diverse needs, but also very rewarding, “said Barbara Smith, RN, school nurse consultant for the Oklahoma State Department of Health. “Wellness, disease prevention, and health education programs provided by school nurses help students gain maximum benefits from their education and become healthy, productive adults.”

“Congratulations and happy anniversary to the more than 250 school nurses in Oklahoma who support the health and educational needs of our state’s school aged children,” Smith said.

For more information on the scope and practice of school nursing, contact the Child and Adolescent Health Division of Maternal and Child Health, Family Health Services, Oklahoma State Department of Health at 405/271-4471, or contact a county health department nurse, and visit the National Association of School Nursing Web site at www.nasn.org.


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