National School Nurse Day, an annual observation sponsored by the National Association of School Nurses, is designed to honor all school nurses. This year’s celebration falls on May 8.

Why a special day to honor school nurses? Students arrive at school each day with a range of health issues that require knowledgeable and skilled oversight. With health care needs ranging from poor oral health and allergies to asthma, diabetes and seizures disorders, students and families look to the school to ensure student safety and management of health conditions. School districts are required by law to provide health services and make accommodations for students with chronic health conditions. For some students, the school health services program or a school-based health center serves as their primary connection to health care. School districts require a school nurse, a specialized nursing practice, to assess student health conditions, plan appropriate care, and promote student health.

School nursing can be a difficult role to define and not clearly understood. The National Association of School Nurses, or NASN, has defined school nursing as a specialty “grounded in ethical and evidence-based practice” in which the nurse functions “not only as a care provider for students with highly diverse and demanding medical conditions, but as a leader who bridges health care and education, provides care coordination, and advocates for quality student–centered care.” The school nurse serves as a critical links between the school, home, community, primary healthcare providers, and community and mental health services. School nurses work hard to “build that bridge” between school and healthcare environments and their hard work has documented successes — studies indicate that access to a school nurse helps support student attendance, engagement, graduation, and ultimately, development of successful community members.

School nurses responsibilities for students with chronic health conditions, care coordination and monitoring are demanding, particularly when time and resources are limited. A school nurse may be responsible for students in multiple school buildings — some are responsible for multiple school districts — serving the needs of some school buildings one day per week or less. Workdays can be hectic as both chronic and emergent healthcare needs of students are managed along with health services program requirements, such as immunization tracking and health screenings.

Please take a few minutes today to say thank you to a school nurse for her or his dedication to student health and safety. A brief note of appreciation or support is always welcome.

North Central ESD supports School Nurse Corps (SNC) services for Chelan, Douglas, Grant and Okanogan School Districts, providing nursing services funding to 12 districts and regionalized support services to 29 school districts, serving over 40,000 students. SNC is a unique, award-winning Washington State program. This year marks the program’s 20th anniversary. For information about School Nurse Corps, visit ncesd.org/service/school-nurse-corps/.

North Central Educational Service District (NCESD) is a resource to the 29 districts within its four-county service area, providing professional and timely tools to meet the needs of individual schools and districts, and a reliable point of education-related information for the communities served. NCESD is a respected resource to other ESDs throughout Washington State.

Cathy Meuret is the School Nurse Corps nurse administrator for the NCESD.