Back to school: Camden school nurses take on care coordination

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School is starting back up again, and for school nurses in Camden, that often means dealing with months of frustration while trying to track down each student’s state-required medical forms.

“School nurses need written written permission from parents and signed medication orders from healthcare providers each new school year to give prescription and non-prescription medication in school,” said Robin Cogan, Camden school nurse and Johnson and Johnson School Health Leadership Program (JJSHLP) Fellow. “We provide direct care through schools, and need to know about things like food allergies and chronic conditions.”

When the information that they need from students’ primary care providers does not get to school nurses in a timely manner, kids may be excluded from school, starting off the year behind their peers.

As one of New Jersey’s three Medicaid Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), the Camden Coalition works to reduce fragmentation and coordinate care for Camden’s 38,000 Medicaid patients. We bring the city’s primary care practices together to create a shared agenda for improving care in Camden. For the thousands of children in Camden who receive health care through their schools, especially those with chronic conditions like asthma, it’s important that there be a strong connection between primary care providers and school nurses.

The five-person Camden County JJSHLP team, which includes three school nurses and two community partners, tackled the issue of fragmented care head-on by convening focus group-like “community cafes” to hear directly from families about where the breakdowns in communications are, and how they affect children’s health. We are also working with the JJSHLP team to convene roundtables discussions with school nurses and primary care providers.

Robin says that advocacy for a greater recognition of school nurses is paying off. “Providers are starting to understand the role of school nurses and the access they have to kids and families,” she said. “For a long time we all stayed in our own lanes, but recently people have started to see the need for collaboration.”

Primary care providers and parents looking for New Jersey’s required school medical forms can find them below:

Required School Medical Forms

Universal Health Record

Permission to Give Medication at School Form

Asthma Treatment Plan (English/Spanish)

Anaphylaxis Emergency Action Plan

NJ Department of Health Immunization Requirements and Guidance

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