School nurses are 'invisible' to teenagers
Less than one in five teenagers would talk to a school nurse if they were worried about their health, a new survey has found.
The National Children’s Bureau conducted an online poll of 11 to 19 year-olds to find out their views on their own health and local health services
Of the 263 respondents, 75% said they would talk to a parent or carer if they had a worry about their health, 51% friends and 48% their GP. Just 17% would consider going to their school nurse.
The findings mirror the results of a survey by the by the British Youth Council last year which found nearly half of 11-18 year-olds were unsure about who their school nurse was. Meanwhile, 69% said they did not have information on how to access their nurse for help, and 73% had not visited them for anything except immunisations.
Unite professional officer for school nursing Ros Godson told Nursing Times the priority should be to increase services to roughly one school nurse per secondary school, supported by staff nurses working in primary schools. Currently school nurses usually cover two or three schools with caseloads of about 6,000 pupils.
Ms Godson said: “Why would you talk to a school nurse if you haven’t seen one and don’t know who they are? The chances of a school nurse being available [to individual pupils] when you’re covering three secondary schools and their associated primary schools are slim.”
In February the Department of Health set out a vision for a school nursing service that is “visible, accessible and confidential” and has committed to trying to expand the profession. However, no extra money is being made available and no target has been set to increase the numbers.
Independent nurse consultant for children and young people’s public health Babs Young, who advised the DH on its school nursing strategy, told Nursing Times commissioners were looking at their school nursing provision in light of the focus from the DH.
She said: “At the moment school nurses are invisible because they’re spread so thinly. It’s quite right that young people will not trust somebody they have never met before.
“If you set a target you just get the minimum. You have to look at what the issues are in each area.”