School Health Professionals Address Barriers to Learning

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When Donna Mazyck talks to educators about the role school health professionals play in improving student achievement, she borrows the Home Depot tagline: "You can do it. We can help."

School Health Professionals 

School nurses and other health professionals are an integral part of schools, "but people are often ill-informed about what we do. Society does not see our value and, unfortunately, that perception is our reality," Mazyck told school health professionals who gathered in Washington, D.C., on July 10, to learn more about how to increase their visibility with school colleagues and within the community. She is a health service specialist with school health services at the Maryland State Department of Education.

School health professionals should be a presence in their schools by getting involved in committees and by collecting data on their daily interactions with students and then sharing that data with others, said Juanita Hogan, a school nurse and member of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers.

Although it's not always easy to make a direct connection between the work of school health professionals and student outcomes, certain data can be used to underscore the importance of having health professionals in the schools.

Educators should be made aware of "educationally relevant" health disparities that impede students' motivation and their ability to learn—such as vision problems, asthma, teen pregnancy, aggression and violence, and inattention—and how school health professionals tackle these issues. "Any discussion of student improvement requires the input of school health professionals in order to fully address the barriers to learning," Mazyck said. "We are there to make a difference in the lives of school children so they can be successful in school."

"The bottom line is that it's up to us to be more collaborative," said Aurelia Barney, a school nurse and a member of the Cleveland Teachers Union. "We have to carve out a space for school nurses and health professionals." [Adrienne Coles/photo by Marvin Jones]

July 11, 2011