TABS 2014 Recap: Guidelines to success in school health services

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Last week we had the opportunity to present to an audience of boarding school professionals at the TABS 2014 Annual Conference. It was a fantastic experience to say the least, and we were grateful to be part of the event.

Presenting at the event was Allen Cobb, Chief Product Officer at Magnus Health, with commentary by Dr. Adrianna Bravo, Medical Director at Episcopal High School. Allen brought with him new research from the Annual Report of Independent School Health Services, along with guidelines to success in school health services. The presentation, “The State of the Boarding School Health Center” was the first of its kind, focusing on health center management in boarding schools. If you didn’t get a chance to see the presentation, don’t worry. We’re about to share the key takeaways with you right here.

We consulted a member of our advisory panel to establish the guidelines below, and we hope these nine guidelines to success in school health services help you develop an even more successful health center.
 

1. Have high standards of care and practice.

The chart below shows boarding school data in blue, and all independent school data in orange. It also shows that roughly 10% boarding schools do not have a Director of Health Services, and over 6% do not have a consulting physician.

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The key takeaway, therefore, is that boarding schools should strive to have a consulting physician (if not a full time physician), as well as a dedicated Director of Health Services on staff. By having these staff members on hand, schools can improve care at a time when student health needs are becoming more complex.

2. Be aware of current trends in needs and in care.

Do you know how much time is spent on various clinical tasks in your health center? Do you know the top reasons why students visit your school nurse? Knowing these data points can help you spot trends in your students’ health needs, and in turn, help you deliver more efficient care. Knowledge is empowering!

3. Use systems and operations for delivery of care that are efficient and effective.

The good news is that boarding schools are exceptionally capable at handling student visits to the student health center. In fact, Annual Report data shows that over 50% of boarding schools have health centers sized at over 1,000 square feet, plus a higher adoption rate of technology (which could partially be attributed to their higher budgets). However, less than two-thirds of boarding schools manage student health records with EMRs – a number that should increase in the coming years as schools strive to be more efficient and effective in student care.

4. Know to serve the school as much as the student.

Screen_Shot_2014-12-10_at_11.56.24_AM-686145-editedHave you considered that your health center is the face of your school?

The boarding school health center is no longer a school nurse’s office or an ancillary service for routine illness. Instead,  school health centers more closely resemble university health centers: comprehensive and current in their scope of services. That means that health centers are now tasked with effectively communicating with stakeholders on a regular basis, providing information about student needs.

5. Focus on customer service to students, faculty/staff, and parents.

As health centers evolve, so do others’ expectations of the service they receive. From students to parents, it’s important to be mindful of how your health center is communicating with students, staff members, and parent. To help you improve your customer service, here’s a quick tip: Put “grandma” at the end of everything you say. Sound silly? Go ahead and try it. If a parent has a question about a health center policy, you may routinely say, “It’s our policy.” But now try this: “It’s our policy, Grandma.” By adding “grandma” at the end, it points out that this sentence is slightly curt. It’s a small reminder that words are just as important as the message they are conveying.

6. Be integrated, not isolated from daily campus life.

Trust matters in student health care. Often times students are wary to share bad news that affects their mental or physical health, but building trust can make it easier for students to approach you. By integrating yourself into campus life, students will see your involvement in the community. Try making time for one campus event per day, such as Chapel, lunch, or an athletic event so that students see your involvement and trust in your care.

7. Build trust and partnership with other departments.

Students aren’t the only ones who are looking for a trusting relationship. The health center should build trust with all departments at the school. Why? Because communication matters when students are in need. For example, working closely with the athletics department matters when tracking student injuries – and that’s just one instance. The chart below shows how often the health center communicates with each department at boarding schools. 

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So ask yourself: How much communication does your health services team have within your school? 

8. Have clear lines of communication with all key stakeholders. 

Whether in an emergency or not, communication should flow easily between stakeholders and the health center. Some examples of key stakeholders include: the Dean’s office, dorm teams, student or residential life committees, the communications department, assistant heads, and the Headmaster.  Start by knowing and understanding who you directly report to, and then build your line of communication from there.

9. Enforce a Zero Tolerance policy.

We promise that this policy is your friend. Zero Tolerance aids the health center in enforcing student health form compliance before the first day of school – which is also the first day that a student emergency could occur. There is too much at stake to not enforce a zero tolerance policy. But don’t just take our word for it. Read about how to enforce Zero Tolerance, plus hear from a school that has successfully implemented the policy, in our Zero Tolerance Policy Toolkit.

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