Cheney Elementary School-Based Health Center
Access to affordable and convenient healthcare is a struggle for many today, but one segment of the population that is particularly affected is children. Children are not only more vulnerable to many diseases than adults, owing to their still-developing immune systems, but they also are still developing physically, mentally, socially, and emotionally. Poor health and untreated illnesses in youth can lead to chronic conditions and underdeveloped potential in adulthood.
Though children may come from geographically, economically, and culturally disparate backgrounds, one thing they all have in common is school. It is a common meeting ground for all youths, and a place where they spend much of their time in a given day or week. School can be a great place for a child's educational and social development, but not if they're not able to fully be there. Many students today, particularly in medically underserved areas where they lack easy access to affordable healthcare, are often absent from class due to illness or other health conditions. Many more are in class but unable to pay attention and properly engage with their education because of health problems. This is not only hurting their physical health, but also their ability to achieve academic success.
Until recently, the only recourse for a sick child in class was to send them to the school nurse. Unfortunately, not only are school nurses only equipped to deal with very basic medical issues - their solutions beyond generic over-the-counter pain and cold medicine often being limited to letting the child lie down on a cot in the clinic or sending the child back to class or home - but many schools today do not even have a school nurse present. It is a growing problem that studies have linked to falling test scores, increased dropout rates, and poor social development. Simply put, students cannot engage in classroom learning and scholastic relationships if they are not present and well.
Some healthcare professionals and organizations have seen this growing problem and answered the call with an innovative solution. Since many students do not have easy access to outside healthcare due to limited transportation, funds, or parental support, and since the stopgap measures provided by school nurses are inadequate to treat the roots of chronic problems, why not move the primary medical care directly to the place students frequent most: school. Thus, school-based health centers were born - fully equipped medical homes that provide a complete range of primary medical services, staffed by both a registered nurse and a licensed medical practitioner. The personnel and services are just like what would be available when visiting the doctor at a hospital, private practice, or health center, but it's about as conveniently located as it could be for the students. Instead of staying sick and being sent home to miss more class and waste the day in bed, students are examined by the health professional, diagnosed, and given whatever medical attention they require to get them well, right there at school. Not only do they receive timely, affordable, and high-quality health care, but they receive it without ever having to leave school or require their parents to leave their jobs and other responsibilities in order to pick them up and take them home.
Central Florida Family Health Center is one of those forward-thinking organizations. In September 2012, we opened our first school-based health center at Cheney Elementary School in Orlando. As pioneers in the area, Cheney Elementary is the first sustainable school-based health center in the Central Florida region. Joslyn Bear, ARNP, has developed a reputation at our Hoffner Center for professional and personalized care, which she now carries over to our Cheney center.
In the current school year (2012-13), our Cheney center is only serving students and their minor siblings, as well as faculty and staff of the school. Starting in the 2013-14 school year, we plan to open a new building on Cheney campus that will not only expand the services available to Cheney students and staff (including dental and behavioral health services), but will also allow us to serve members of the community at large. Stay tuned for more information as the pieces begin to fall into place to make that dream a reality next year.