School nurses are modern marvels
THE school nurse has long been caricatured as the dreaded ‘nit nurse’, clinically combing through scalps of wriggling youngsters.
But like most stereotypes, the ‘nit nurse’ is an outdated term for what these health care professionals do and the vital role they play in safeguarding children across Bolton.
From hearing tests to educating teenagers about sexual exploitation, the school nursing team in Bolton covers nearly every aspect of a child’s wellbeing.
And with the borough having some of the highest levels of deprivation in the country, the school nurses play an important public health role for the population in their early years.
Immunising children, measuring their height and weight, running drop-in clinics and teaching part of the PSHE (personal, social and health education) curriculum are just a few more of the jobs they can be asked to do.
Carolyn Howlin is the school nurse team leader for Bolton and says her role has changed dramatically during her 10 years as a school nurse.
She said: “We take a very holistic approach to the health and wellbeing of children.
“By that I mean we are concerned with both their physical and emotional wellbeing.
“I’d say the biggest change I have seen within the last 10 years is an increase in the levels of safeguarding of children, which is mainly down to factors like the Baby P case and the increased level of looked after children. These are children living foster care.
“Bolton has some very deprived areas, which means things like the teenage pregnancy rate and dental decay is high.
“Our role is to ensure their health needs are met and to signpost parents or teachers to the right services.”
Today, Year 1 pupils at Bishop Bridgeman Primary School are having audiology tests, with health care assistants Pat Hutchinson and Carol Stephens.
All schoolchildren are offered vision and hearing tests in their first two years in school.
For the audiology tests, each tiny tot is played sounds at different frequencies.
It is a simple test but hearing problems can have a huge impact on child’s behaviour and learning in class.
“If they have problems with their hearing it can impact in the way children interact with their peers and learning levels. If they fail the first time we will do a second test and if they fail again, then we will refer them to a specialist. It’s not uncommon for children to fail this test but it’s really important they have it at a young age,” said Ms Howlin.
The health care assistants can visit up to four or five different schools a day to carry out immunisations, such as the new Meningitis C vaccination for Year 10 pupils.
Carol and Pat agree they love the variety the job brings.
Ms Howlin said: “We really enjoy it.
“No day is ever the same when you do this job.”
“Naturally, as children progress to high school, their health and wellbeing needs change. Whether it is contraception, sexual health or self-harm, the school nursing team are trained to help adolescent youngsters.
For example the team will hold assemblies and regular drop-in sessions at all high schools in Bolton.
Ms Howlin said: “Years ago, schools would have had a permanent school nurse on site most of the time but now all schools will have first aiders.
“Now, we hold drop in sessions where pupils can come and see us for advice. “Quite often when we hold a session with Year 10 pupils about sexual health and contraception, we’ll see an increase at the drop-ins, which is a good thing.
“A big part of our role for teenagers when it comes to pregnancy or sexual health is myth-busting.
“We also encourage young people to think about responsibility and self-esteem when it comes to relationships. It’s really important for them to think about whether they’re ready for sex and that they’re not being exploited or pressured in any way.
“It’s great for me when you meet a young couple who want to make sure they are being responsible. Teenagers can be in loving relationships just like adults, we just have to make sure they have access to all the advice and services they need.
“Some kids might find it hard to talk to their parents about sex or trying to quit smoking and that’s where we can help.
“Although we would always encourage pupils to be as open and honest as they can with their parents.
“Obviously we are never there to judge a child, we are there to listen and help.”
For more information about the school nursing service, call Bolton NHS Foundation Trust on: 01204 390390.
Comments are closed on this article.