EXPERTS LAUD SEQUOIA HEALTHCARE DISTRICT NURSING EDUCATION PROGRAM, HEALTHY SCHOOLS INITIATIVE
REDWOOD CITY/June 1, 2011 - A parade of speakers reporting on the successes of Sequoia Healthcare District’s nursing baccalaureate partnership with San Francisco State University and the San Mateo Community College District and on the first-year achievements of the district’s Healthy Schools Initiative validated the faith – and funding – district directors placed in the two programs.
District directors, meeting in regular session June 1, faced a packed house of educators, healthcare professionals, administrative staff from colleges and healthcare institutions and program beneficiaries themselves as they were updated on the two unique programs, which together over the next three years will account for more than $7 million in district expenditures.
Sequoia Healthcare District is mid-way through a 10-year partnership with SF State University, Cañada College and Sequoia Hospital to produce a cohort of 40 nurses per year, with priority given to students living within the healthcare district. Sequoia Healthcare District funds $1 million per year for nursing student scholarships.
And, thanks to the Healthy Schools Initiative established last year to consolidate several years of community support of public school nurses and wellness programs, dozens of spinoff youth health initiatives are now up and running at elementary, middle and high school campuses throughout central and southern San Mateo County.
Presenting the nursing baccalaureate update for San Francisco State University were Donald Taylor, Dean of the College of Health and Human Services; Lynette Landry, PhD, Director-Elect of the School of Nursing; Vice President for Advancement Robert Nava\; College of Health and Human Services Director of Development Mark Kelleher and two graduates, Suzanne Awad and Jeffrey Meinhold.
They were joined by Dr. Harvey Davis of the San Francisco State-Cañada College Partnership.
Dr. Landry reported that the program has graduated 272 nurses in the past four years for a 92 percent pass rate and has met or exceeded all its benchmark goals. One hundred forty-three – almost 53 percent – of graduates live and work in San Mateo County. The economic downturn has frozen nurse hiring in many places, including in many San Mateo County hospitals, she added; however, the expectation is that the pendulum will swing towards more hiring within one to two years.
Dr. Davis said the program “is working out better than we imagined,” pointing out nurses in the board meeting audience who were actually there on separate health-related matters.
The district Nursing Education Program is unique for the quality of its partners and for its rule allowing students who already hold bachelor’s degrees to enroll for a second bachelor’s in nursing. Because of capacity, financial or other limitations, many colleges will not enroll students who already hold a degree.
Registered Nurse Jeffrey Meinhold is such a one. Born in Redwood City, a graduate of local schools and a college graduate, Meinhold developed the dream of entering nursing after getting his first degree. He was denied college entrance at universities because of the degree or because of highly competitive entrance lotteries where only a few get in.
Thanks to the Healthcare District scholarship, he was able to obtain his degree last year and was the successful applicant for the position of school nurse in the Belmont-Redwood Shores School District – a position that the healthcare district’s other program, Healthy Schools, funded.
“I want to share that without this program I wouldn’t be a nurse now,” Meinhold said. “This program offered me a merit-based system allowing me to be selected. Without that, I wouldn’t be here. I have to say ‘thank you’ for the program.”
Suzanne Awad, also a 2010 graduate of the program, said her path began when she gave birth to her children at Sequoia Hospital.
“I was intrigued by the nurses who cared for me,” Awad said. “Had it not been for this program I would not be a baccalaureate-prepared nurse. My husband and I own a restaurant in Belmont. The college was only ten minutes away from my home and ten minutes away from my children’s school. I feel very fortunate to be in this program.”
Awad now works on the cardiac surveillance unit at Sequoia Hospital and says she is excited to be working with internationally known cardiac surgeons and physicians.
Healthy Schools Initiative
Updating the board on first-year progress in the district’s Healthy Schools Initiative (HSI) were luminaries from the public schools, including three district superintendents: Jan Christensen, Superintendent of the Redwood City School District; Emerita Orta-Camelleri, Superintendent of the Belmont-Redwood Shores School District and Craig Baker, Superintendent of the San Carlos School District – plus Anne Campbell, San Mateo County Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Joining them were Dr. Lesley Martin, Director of Wellness for the San Carlos School District; Maureen Campbell, Vice-principal at Woodside High School; Kimberlee Stanley, director of Woodside’s Counseling and Advocacy for Teens (CAT) program; Cherie Ho, Director of Wellness for the Belmont-Redwood City School District and Principal at Redwood Shores Elementary School; Thea Runyan, Health and Wellness Specialist for the Belmont-Redwood Shores School District; Mindy Shelton, Health Educator for the Belmont-Redwood Shores School District; Jennifer Gabet, Nutrition Education Program Manager for UC Cooperative Extension; Sebastian Castrechini, Policy Analyst for the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities at Stanford University and school nurses Meinhold and Janette Lal.
Sequoia Healthcare District has committed at least three years and $4.5 million to helping budget-impacted school districts hire school nurses, wellness directors, physical education teachers and other staff to improve the health and healthy eating habits of more than 23,000 public school students.
Director of the Healthy Schools Initiative, Pamela Kurtzman, emphasized that activities of the program follow the Department of Public Health’s Coordinated School Health Model with the goal of filling in the gaps in health and wellness programs in the public schools.
“Budget cuts have decimated these programs,” Kurtzman said, “despite the fact that we know kids aren’t going to learn if they’re not healthy, if school staff are not healthy and they don’t have good role models in the area of health and wellness.”
Secondly, she said, because HSI is new for the district and cutting edge, data gathered by the Gardner Center at Stanford University will be critical for evaluating success, identifying areas for improvement and pointing the way for subsequent years of the program.
All agreed the program fulfills a critical need.
“To give you an example of what is at stake,” Superintendent Christensen said, “one of our nurses has charge of a medically fragile student subject to seizures who needs a shot within two minutes of a seizure or they’d die. More and more schools are dealing with problems such as diabetic children, students with mental health issues and disabled students. Without this funding, we wouldn’t provide this kind of assistance.”
Dr. John Baker, Deputy Superintendent of the Redwood City School District, reported that HSI allowed the district to hire a registered nurse, two Licensed Vocational Nurses and a physical education specialist and two counselors.
The schools are now reaching out to other community organizations such as Second Harvest Food Bank to coordinate in-home and at-school nutrition programs.
The focus on mental health is paying off, as well.
Woodside High’s Kimberlee Stanley said it allowed the school to implement an “alternative suspension program” that gives students involved in violent episodes the option of two counseling sessions, an additional session with parents and the final option of continued counseling.
The program saw 56 students in the past year and followed up client surveys. Through a random sample of 50 students the surveys disclosed that 90 percent of them felt they were coping better after counseling, 100 percent felt they had benefited by counseling and 98 percent said they’d seek help again.
Cherie Ho heads a team of healthcare workers in the Belmont-Redwood Shores School District and presented data that showed HSI has changed behavior of students and staff, top to bottom, throughout the district. Every school now has a Wellness Team that establishes priorities for its campus; Wellness Teams throughout the district are now coordinating their activities.
Belmont-Redwood Shores is reaching out to community partners such as the Belmont Police Department, Youth and Family Enrichment Services, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and the county Healthy Schools Task Force to bring in conflict resolution services, health challenges and teaching programs.
Dr. Lesley Westridgde of the San Carlos School District reported that her schools worked with the City/County Association of Governments on Safe Routes to School to get kids and parents safely out of cars and on their feet to school, are developing one healthy menu for all school lunch programs, are presenting weekly staff yoga classes, flu shots and AED and CPR training for every teacher in the district and more.
Policy Analyst Castrechini of the Gardner Center at Stanford said tracking the program, evaluating outcomes and following student progress ultimately will refine the model and help inform the Sequoia Healthcare District board as it makes future funding decisions.