The American School Health Association (ASHA) is an international organization that has spent almost a century assisting schools in their mission to support student development. ASHA defines a high-quality school health program as one that features a "coordinated and collaborative approach" to school medical needs, with "active leadership from school administrators" and "a school employee with responsibility for coordination."
Who should that person be? ASHA (and Joffe) believe that having a Health Coordinator on campus is the most effective strategy to ensure that your school's medical program adheres to best practices and is able to deliver appropriate care to the entire community.
Here's why. Addressing school health concerns is layered and complex. It involves multiple programs and responsibilities. Whatever the core task at hand is (concussions, vaccinations, anaphylaxis, parent interaction, medicine administration), resolving it requires someone who has time and specialized medical knowledge. A School Health Coordinator is the key figure providing direction and oversight through all of the different strategies implemented.
To state it more plainly, a School Health Coordinator is the leader who makes sure that your school's health program is meeting the responsibilities it has to your community, including:
- Communication to all relevant groups about school health programs, initiatives, and priorities - In the course of their work, Health Coordinators communicate with all of the groups that comprise a school community, from parents to administrators. Through this communication, they draw the direct line between policies and procedures and their impact on a healthy learning environment.
- Providing direct healthcare, and identifying community-wide trends - Of course, Health Coordinators spend time dealing with students (and occasionally faculty/staff) who come into their office with medical concerns. They treat minor injuries and illness and ensure that higher levels of care are provided for those who need it. However, just as important is their responsibility to track everything they do for the community. When Health Coordinators keep useful data on things like why individuals came in for care or what healthcare supplies are used, it allows schools to tailor their healthcare program to the specific needs of their unique community.
- Designing individualized healthcare solutions for students - While recognizing these broad trends is essential to effective school healthcare, the core goal of a School Health Coordinator is to provide appropriate support to each and every individual they interact with. Joffe's experience providing trained Health Coordinators to schools has taught us that this element cannot be understated. Every student our Health Coordinators see is in the midst of their development as a student and as a person. Sometimes, what they're struggling with isn't physical! One of the ways Health Coordinators support a school community is by providing a place (the health office) where students feel like they are safe and by being a trusted individual who will listen to what they say without judgement.
I'll close with a brief example to remind us about how the different roles and responsibilities of a School Health Coordinator interact. We've all seen test anxieties rise amongst students in recent years. A Health Coordinator might notice a community-wide trend of increased health office visits. The solid and trusting relationships they've developed with students allow them to confirm the suspicion that these visits are connected to test anxiety. Ultimately, they may discuss this concern with administration and determine how to best intervene, whether a school-wide assembly or other solution.
This blog post is intended to be a light overview of how School Health Coordinators positively affect their communities. To read a more detailed look at the roles and responsibilities of a School Health Coordinator, go here.
Every school has unique circumstances and needs when it comes to school health. If you'd like to discuss what a Joffe Health Coordinator might look like in your community, please contact us at "firstname.lastname@example.org". We love talking safety!