One silver lining of the COVID pandemic has been a recognition of the important role that school nurses play
. As recently as 2014, fewer than half of Michigan school districts employed a school nurse
— despite research showing that school nurses lower absenteeism
, help identify children with mental health issues
, and support students with chronic health issues
, such as asthma.
, a network of 325 nurses offering cost-effective health care options to businesses, nursing homes, individuals and schools, has stepped up to bridge that gap with a school nurse program that provides on-site school nurses on a concierge basis. School districts can choose what services their nurse will provide and whether they will oversee an entire district or be assigned to one school building.
“What those nurses do, each of those roles differ,” says Nathan Baar, HealthBar founder and CEO. “We do everything from reviewing student care plans to making sure all medical procedures and protocols in that school are up to date. We do medication administration and injury/illness care, some of the more basic health care things. What I loved about our program is that we take it significantly further. We actually get into educating students about what it is to lead a healthy lifestyle.”
HealthBar currently has nurses in West Michigan, the Kalamazoo area and the Detroit Metro area. Here in West Michigan, they work in Godfrey-Lee Public Schools
in Wyoming, Kenowa Hills Public Schools
in Alpine Township and portions of Walker and Wright Township, Lowell Area Schools
and Holland Public Schools
“The complexity of health care needs within the schools is increasing,” Baar says. “Allowing us to come in and address all those medical and mental health needs, being that new front door to health care for them means the teachers and administrative personnel aren’t having to shoulder this burden, which was taking away from their ability and time to focus on teaching.”
HealthBar CEO Nathan Baar
When it comes to inspiring students to lead healthy lifestyles, HealthBar nurses go beyond the food pyramid to share helpful information relating to students’ own personal health as they grow and develop — nutrition, mindfulness and appropriate levels of exercise.
“We’re teaching kids how to be healthy,” Baar says. “There's such a gap of knowledge there. And when you're younger, you feel invincible. You know, financial education in schools is starting to become a bigger thing. There should also be a component of education that teaches how you can actually be healthy. We take it there.”
The HealthBar nurses are having a significant impact on mental health in schools, as well.
“In one of our recent data reports — we do monthly data reporting for these schools — in one of our districts, 40% of the encounters with our nurses in a school building were related to mental health,” Barr says.
Notes from children describing what mental health means to them. Part of HealthBar's school nursing services includes health education.
Baar says another benefit of using HealthBar’s nurses in schools is that each nurse is part of a community of nurses. This allows them to collaborate, share best practices and optimize the services they provide in schools.
“We're really seeing the value that our school nurses are providing and the need to expand our program across the state,” Baar concludes. “We would like to see a nurse in every school providing a health care access point to the students and faculty, especially in those rural areas that need health care access so badly.”