You rely on school staff to care for your child for most of his or her waking hours during the academic year, and type 1 diabetes can make that a tall order. In honor of National School Nurse Day (observed on the Wednesday between May 6 and May 12 each year), make their job a little easier: Consider adopting one of these habits or solutions that members of the National Association of School Nurses say has made a real difference to them.
Beat the Rush
“It’s very helpful when a parent schedules a conference and meets with me before a child with diabetes starts the school year. The first few weeks of school are hectic, and I want to be ready to receive your child the minute he or she walks in the school. As we know, children are individuals, and what works for one child may not be the best for another. Yes, we need to know the medical information like ratios and correction factors, but it’s also important to hear what challenges the child is struggling with, and what is going well. I want to be a very important part of your child’s healthcare team and provide the support that your child needs to be successful.”
—Susan Hoffmann, M.S.N., R.N., N.C.S.N., member of the Delaware School Nurse Association, and school nurse at WB Simpson Elementary School in Wyoming, Del.
Try New Tools
“I have multiple students with type 1 diabetes, and keeping parents updated can become quite difficult. Fortunately, the parents I work with agreed to use a web-based program which has allowed me to communicate throughout the day with them. Parents receive text messages and/or emails informing them of blood sugar checks, insulin given, carbohydrate counts, [and other care management information]. This helps simplify my communication, and parents are updated in real time, reducing stress for both of us. If your school nurse asks you to try a new communication tool, consider that it could benefit you as well.”
—Kim Edens, R.N., B.S.N., school nurse at Woodward Academy Primary School, College Park, Ga.
“One parent shared with me that she had created a ‘diabetes drawer’ in her kitchen dedicated only to supplies for her child with type 1. It was right near the back door the family used to exit and enter their home. Every night she placed a sticky note on the door to remind her to gather any supplies needed for school. In the morning, she could just grab the supplies from the drawer and go. The note also served as a reminder to make sure her child had taken the morning basal insulin. I’ve passed this tip on to many families over the years to help them keep their children’s supplies stocked in my office.”
—Tamesha Will, B.S.N., R.N., school nurse at Quest Early College High School, Houston, Texas
Recap Last Night
“Over the years, one of the many things that parents have done that has assisted in my care of students with diabetes is to notify me when their child has had a significant episode of hypo- or hyperglycemia the previous night. With this information, I can notify the school staff to be aware of the possible short-term impact on learning—e.g., concentration, focus, and memory—and also monitor for a recurrence of a high or low.”
—Leah Wyckoff, M.S., B.S.N., R.N., N.C.S.N., school nurse consultant and diabetes resource nurse, DCS Montessori Charter School, Castle Rock, Colo.
Be an Open Book
“I find it very helpful to establish a ‘working’ notebook that goes back and forth between school and the parents of elementary students with diabetes. The notebook includes messages from parents regarding nighttime or morning readings and general comments on how things went at home the night before. It’s also very helpful when parents include cold lunch carb counts in their daily message, because [not having to calculate the number] cuts down on the time we keep the student in the office. When I return the notebook, I include notes to remind parents to restock snacks, juices, or supplies. I can also remind them of upcoming field trips. These notebooks keep an open communication between families and the school, which makes managing the care of students with diabetes safer for the student and calming for parents.”
—Kati Bauerly, B.S.N., P.H.N., licensed school nurse, St. Cloud Community School District #742, St. Cloud, Minn.
“One habit that works well is the use of sticky labels in the child’s lunch box. The parents place a label inside listing the total number of carbohydrates for the lunch on one line and the afternoon snack on another line. They also take the extra step of labeling each individual item that does not have a nutrition label on it (for example, homemade baked goods). If I’m running low on supplies or need to inform parents of a snack that the child does not like to eat or just provide weekly blood sugar numbers, I also send the information on a note in the child’s lunch box. Because parents pack the child’s lunch every day, they see it. This mode of communication really works well to keep us connected and on top of things.”
—Jade Bland-Slaffey, M.S.H.C.A., B.S.N., R.N., community health nurse and school nurse at School Within School in Washington, D.C.
Find a free printable color-in thank-you card for your child’s school nurse and other ways to show your appreciation here! Or tweet your gratitude on National School Nurse Day (the Wednesday between May 6 and May 12 each year) using #SchoolNurseDay.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring.