FREEHOLD – Most parents have experienced the following situation…. the school nurse calls to say your child is not feeling well. You have to leave work or stop whatever you are doing to pick up your child and try to get an appointment. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a nurse practitioner in the school who could examine your child, prescribe and even administer medications, and get them back to class sooner? Thanks to philanthropic support, such services are a reality in some New Jersey schools through the Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey’s School-based Nurse Practitioner program.
The Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey (VNACJ) Children and Family Health Institute (CFHI) is excited to have recently received a grant in the amount of $30,000 from Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. The donation, made through The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, will be used to fund the VNACJ School-based Nurse Practitioner Program (SBNP) in which Nurse Practitioners (NPs) work in collaboration with school nurses to provide enhanced health services to students and families.
“This grant from Horizon will enable the VNACJ Children and Family Health Institute to continue our important work to provide the link between health and education in the schools where children spend much of their day,” said Colleen Nelson, RN, MSN, Vice President of the Children and Family Health Institute, an arm of VNACJ that is completely funded by grants and philanthropic support. “The schools are in areas of Monmouth and Ocean County where families have limited access to resources in New Jersey. VNA NPs provide health care services in 18 schools in 7 school districts including Asbury Park, Freehold, Keansburg, Keyport, Red Bank and Eatontown in Monmouth County and Toms River in Ocean County.”
Kristine McCoy, MD, MPH, Chair of the CFHI, acts as the collaborating physician who oversees the School Based Nurse Practitioner program. She noted, “Providing primary care with a focus on physical, social and emotional wellbeing, this program ensures improved school attendance and ability to learn. Children are diagnosed, treated and get back in class sooner as a result of having an NP who can prescribe medications for episodic illness such as strep throat and help manage treatments for chronic conditions such as asthma.”
The NP helps the school nurse positively influence the quality of life for children and families in at-risk communities by conducting health screenings and sports physicals, providing referrals to community resources and conducting educational sessions on healthy behaviors and nutrition for students, parents and families. The NP also provides self-management education, which is important in empowering students in self-care of chronic conditions. The bilingual NP serves as a trusted resource and liaison to healthcare for students and their families. Through leveraging other VNA services, they can also facilitate enrollment in insurance, assist in securing medical homes and provide vital connections to community resources.
“Many parents don’t get paid if they don’t work and sometimes have transportation issues,” said Catherine Donahue, NP, who has been a VNACJ school-based nurse practitioner for 16 years. “A lot of parents don’t initially know we are there for them, but once they understand, they are grateful.”
Donahue recalled being touched by a note (which she still has) from a grandmother expressing her heartfelt gratitude to her for positively affecting her granddaughter’s life. The girl, who was in eighth grade when she first saw Donahue, had been hospitalized frequently due to asthma flare-ups. Donahue made sure the child had proper medications and worked with her to teach her to proactively manage her asthma and recognize the symptoms of an impending attack, instead of trying to catch up once they are out of control.
Donahue, who still sees the child, now a senior in high school, said, “She is managing her asthma and doing much better.”
“Horizon is pleased to support the important work being done by VNACJ to support the health and well-being of school-age children and their families,” said Jonathan R. Pearson, Executive Director of The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey. “The SBNP program aligns with Horizon’s commitment to helping our members access the resources they need to manage their health. We are improving the health of the communities we serve by helping people work through barriers to good health with the support of a Nurse Practitioner. The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey works across New Jersey with grantees who share our commitment to improving the health and communities we serve.”
About The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey
The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey is committed to working alongside those who can help us improve our neighbors’ health, inform their health decisions and inspire them to lead healthier, more fulfilling lives. The Foundation’s mission is to support organization’s that make New Jersey healthier. The Foundation has three funding pillars, Caring, Connecting and Creating. Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is the sole member of The Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, both of which are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more information, please visit http://community.horizonblue.com/.
About the Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey Children and Family Health Institute Visiting Nurse Association of Central Jersey Inc. (VNACJ) is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to helping individuals and families achieve their best level of well-being by delivering vital community services to those in need. The organization’s vision is to lead the transformation of the health of the community to achieve the highest level of quality, access, value and overall wellness. Since its inception in 1912, the agency’s philosophy has been that health care services should be available and accessible to all, regardless of their circumstances. As a safety-net provider, VNACJ has been on the frontlines of community health providing community-based programs and services for children and adults of all ages. In 2012, VNACJ launched the Children and Family Health Institute (CFHI), now headquartered in the Freehold Medical Arts Building at 597 Park Avenue in Freehold Borough, to improve access to community-based care for at-risk children and their families, offering a “no wrong front door” approach. Through more than 20 grant- and philanthropically-funded programs, and strategic affiliations with four VNACJ Community Health Centers, a staff of over 300 work to provide a foundation to support healthy and functional families that can advocate for their own health care needs and for resources needed to improve the health and wellbeing of their communities. For more information, please visit www.vnacj.org.