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Published on September 21, 2016

Parents have homework, too, when school startsParents have homework, too, when school starts

Paperwork for the school nurse can be an arduous task but it will help to keep your child healthy and safe throughout the school year.

Just over 18,100 Cape Cod children are returning to school according to the Massachusetts Department of Education (DOE). And whether they are in elementary or high school, it’s important that the myriad of health forms is submitted to the school nurses.

“Communication is definitely key,” said Stacey Schakel MSN, RN, CAGS, NCSN, school nurse at the K.C. Coombs School in Mashpee.

But at the high school level it can more of a challenge, according to Joyce O’Connor, MSN, RN, FNP-C, NCSN, school nurse at Mashpee High School, which houses grades seven through 12.

“I find paperwork trickles in a little more slowly,” she said. “As the students get older, they are more autonomous and not as apt to get the paperwork in on time.”

Here are the reports and other paperwork parents need to complete for each school year, according to Schakel and O’Connor:

  • Immunization records need to be up-to-date as required by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH)
  • Sports physicals cannot be older than 13 months from the last physical exam, in order for a student to play sports. That is a requirement of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA).
  • A copy of the student’s annual physical. Grab a copy when your child has his or her visit with the pediatrician.
  • Current contact information is especially important if your child becomes ill or has an emergency during the school day. If you change jobs, phone numbers or home address, make sure to update this information with the school nurse.
  • Names and numbers of friends or relatives who have written permission to be contacted in the event you can’t be reached.
  • A list of your child’s allergies is valuable information for not only the nurses, but teachers and coaches as well. Signs and symptoms help with assessing your child if they have a reaction. Update this information if new allergies develop.
  • Medication orders must be completed by your child’s pediatrician or primary care physician with your written consent before the nurse can administer them. You must personally deliver the medications to the nurse.
  • Details that can impact your child’s day such as anxieties in certain situations, any changes in home life, or concerns.

“All of this information reduces the risk of health problems,” said Schakel.

While the most essential deadline to meet is at the kindergarten level when immunizations have to be complete before starting school, it’s important to update all health information throughout their school years, said both nurses.

O’Connor gave an example of a student who came to her and told her that he faints at the sight of blood. She explained to him that if he feels a fainting spell coming on, he should move to the floor and either sit or lie down. The student’s teacher or coach should have a heads-up about situations like this, she said.

Email and the school’s website have made it easier for parents to complete and submit paperwork at her pre-school through second-grade school, according to Schakel.

“Our role every day is to communicate, educate, and collaborate with families and school staff,” she added. And this includes dentists and pediatricians.

Both nurses stressed the importance of students advocating for themselves about health concerns, when the situation warrants it.

In addition to paperwork, here are five tips both nurses recommend for a successful school day.

  • Teach your children to wash their hands after using the bathroom, before eating, and after coughing or sneezing.
  • A variety of healthy foods and snacks will help to keep your child’s body in working order. Yogurt, fresh fruit, raisins, raw vegetables and avoid cookies, chips, fruit roll ups etc. Water is recommended throughout the day and nutritional guidelines from the United States Department of Agriculture, (USDA) requires schools to provide water to students.
  • Rest and sleep at least eight to 10 hours every night.
  • Exercise helps the immune and digestive systems plus improves mood and attitude.
  • Make sure your children are dressed properly for the weather. Sneakers are the best foot wear and the nurses recommend avoiding flip flops, clogs, and slip-on shoes.

“We are here to maximize the students’ potential to learning and everything health is going to impact their ability to learn,” said Schakel.

[Image Notes: L-R, Joyce O’Connor MSN, RN, FNP-C, NCSN is a school nurse at Mashpee High School and Stacey Schakel, MSN, RN, CAGS, NCSN, is school nurse at the K. C. Coombs school in Mashpee.]