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New tool helps school nurses treat chronic ailments in 30 Wisconsin counties

April 10, 2015

View testimonials from Valerie Hon and other school nurses.

Lori Anderson, the daughter of an Oconomowoc school nurse, saw the daily challenges of school nurses even as a kid: not enough time, too few resources and isolation from peers.

As a clinical professor at UW–Madison’s School of Nursing, Anderson helped tackle those problems by creating a Web-based tool that school nurses in 30 Wisconsin counties and across West Virginia are using to treat and better understand kids’ chronic illnesses.

Called eSchoolCare, the tool allows school nurses to go online to tap into expertise from the School of Nursing and the American Family Children’s Hospital to help treat children with asthma, diabetes, severe allergies, cancer and mental health disorders. Another module, on caring for kids with epilepsy, is under development.

Photo: Lori Anderson

Lori Anderson

After graduating from nursing school, Anderson recalls her first job as a school nurse in Mukwonago and the professional isolation she felt.

“That feeling stuck with me, of being out in a school, the only health care person and people were counting on me to know a lot of things. But I could always pick up my phone and call my mom,” she says.

In a similar — but digital — way, eSchoolCare helps school nurses stay current, confident and connected, with the goal of improving children’s health and their classroom performance. Bolstering academic success is key, since children with chronic conditions are three times more likely to miss significant amounts of school and are nearly three times more likely to repeat at least one grade compared to healthy children.

“School nurses are increasingly asked to take care of kids with complex health problems. It’s not just Band-Aids,” Anderson says, noting that 18 percent of school-aged children have or are at-risk for a chronic health condition.

The mobile-enabled eSchoolCare platform provides updated, research-based guidance on treatments in modules written by physicians and advanced practice nurses at American Family Children’s Hospital in each subject area. The nursing modules receive independent quality reviews by national experts and are routinely updated with new information.

“School nurses are increasingly asked to take care of kids with complex health problems. It’s not just Band-Aids.”

Lori Anderson

School nurses using eSchoolCare — which has been endorsed by the National Association of School Nurses — find it a helpful, easy-to-navigate tool for nurses who are often on the move.

“The videos help me teach students how to use their medications as they learn self-management skills. The tools show how other students, similar in age, are doing,” says Valerie Hon, district nurse in the Portage Community School District. “Another benefit is that I can really delve into professional development by using resources identified for each of the topics. If I have questions, I can pose them to others on the community forum, to learn how others are approaching the same topics.”

The effectiveness of eSchoolCare helps remove learning barriers for kids with chronic conditions, Hon adds.

The program, developed with a 2011 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is now supported by school district subscriptions and gifts.

Anderson hopes to expand the use of eSchoolCare, and the program was in the inaugural class of Discovery to Product (D2P), which helps commercialize UW–Madison innovations.

“We’re nurses, not business people, so we’re trying to figure out a business model so we can make it as successful as possible,” Anderson says. “It’s a great example of using the university’s health care expertise and literally taking it out into the state.”

—Dennis Chaptman

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