Hawaii Keiki program brings nurses to schools, keeping students in the classroom

Sponsored by University Health Partners and the John A. Burns School of Medicine

Until 2014, Hawaii’s public schools had no nurses. But a dynamic partnership with the University of Hawaii at Manoa, School of Nursing and the Hawaii State Department of Education changed all that, providing nursing care to a number of schools across the state through the Hawaii Keiki Program.

School nurses are able to perform a critical role at Hawaii schools by addressing the major health problems experienced by children. This role includes providing preventive and screening services, health education and assistance with decision-making about health and immunization against preventable diseases.

Nurses have the skills to assess children to make sure they are healthy enough for class, and if not, that they are given the care needed to get better and back in the classroom as quickly as possible. With a nurse on campus, a student can be assessed and may be able to stay in school. If a child needs to go home, the nurse can call the parent and explain why the child needs to be picked up. Teachers and principals are also able to work with school nurses by getting support to help manage a child with a health issue in the classroom.

By placing APRNs (nurse practitioners) and RNs (registered nurses) in schools, the program is building school-based health services that screen for treatable health conditions, provide health care referrals and conduct emergency care when needed. When students don’t have a doctor or dentist, the program is also able to link them up with providers and health centers. Parents of children with asthma, seizures, or those who need medication during the school day can be assured that nurses will administer the prescriptions correctly. This gives parents peace of mind knowing their child can be seen by the nurse when they have symptoms.

In some schools, the family nurse practitioner also provides care to teachers and school staff, which helps decrease their time away from work for health issues.

Currently, the Hawaii Keiki program provides services to Oahu, Hawaii Island, Maui and Kauai. The state of Hawaii is divided into 15 DOE complex areas, and the program has at least one school nurse in 14 of those areas. National recommendations are one nurse for every 750 students and Hawaii has funded 19 nurses for 179,000 students. These nurses support a number of schools while also providing direct care at their main school.

For more information about the program or to find the nurse for your child’s school complex area, go to: nursing.hawaii.edu/hawaii-keiki