Northwell launches clinical education program to support school nurses

Northwell launches clinical education program to support school nurses
Northwell’s School Nurse Professional Development Program offers clinical instruction and guidance on new medical technology and practice guidelines. (Photo courtesy of Northwell Health)

To enhance the health of children in its communities, Northwell Health has launched its School Nurse Professional Development Program, which provides education and clinical skills practice for these health care professionals. The program helps school nurses stay up-to-date on changes in the rapidly evolving field of health care, empowering them to more effectively care for students in their charge.

“At Northwell, we’re committed to caring not just for the children at our hospitals and practices but for all the children and families in our area,” said Launette Woolforde, vice president of nursing education and professional development at Northwell Health. “One way of achieving that goal is through providing educational support to school nurses, who are vital in protecting the physical, emotional and mental health of children from kindergarten through high school.”

The new program meets a demonstrated need. Unlike a number of other states, New York does not require nurses to participate in continuing education to maintain their license; additionally, there are limited resources available to school nurses who are interested in ongoing clinical education and skills practice as well as professional development. Clinicians at Northwell’s Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park have regularly fielded calls from school nurses asking for guidance regarding new medical technology and practice guidelines.

In response, for the past two years, the health system has offered informational sessions on a variety of health care topics, which have been attended by approximately 1,000 school nurses. The new program, which was jointly developed by Northwell Health Community Relations, Cohen Children’s Medical Center and the Northwell Health Institute for Nursing, includes an expanded schedule of these educational workshops and adds clinical instruction courses that offer school nurses hands-on experience with equipment, along with interactive demonstrations and assessment of nursing skills. School nurses attending the clinical courses receive continuing education units.

“Through our involvement with local school districts, we became aware that school nurses are often siloed from education on the newest medical treatments and technologies,” said Matthew DePace, Northwell’s Regional Director of Community Relations for Long Island and Queens. “School nurses are eager for that information, and we’ve made it our mission to bring it to them.”

“School nurses face many more demands these days than in years past,” said Laura McDonagh, director of pediatric services at Cohen Children’s Medical Center. “More children have chronic conditions or complex medical needs, and nurses have to be prepared for potentially life-threatening emergencies, like diabetic coma or anaphylaxis. We want to give school nurses the tools they need to keep children safe.”

The first clinical classes will be held in the 2019-20 school year, and will cover best practices when handling anaphylaxis in a school setting, managing students with diabetes and caring for students with seizure disorder. The educational courses will update nurses on the latest evidence-based approaches to a variety of topics, including food allergies, childhood anxiety, the use of social media, urological issues, and human and child sex trafficking.

The educational program also includes Northwell’s well-attended school nurse program addressing the opioid epidemic. The program, Recovery, Resilience and Hope, destigmatizes and reframes substance misuse and abuse as medical issues, provides information on resources available for students and community members with substance use issues, and provides a broad range of strategies that nurses can use in addressing opioid-related concerns. Participants also learn how to prevent, recognize and respond to overdose, including administering naloxone, the medication designed to rapidly reverse opioid overdose. More than 400 nurses have attended the program, which as of the close of the school year has been offered to nurses in every school district on Long Island. By the close of 2019, the program will have been made available to nurses in every school district in Northwell’s footprint.

School nurses can register for educational and clinical programs in the 2019-2020 series at

They can register for the opioid education program, Recovery, Resilience and Hope, at

Submitted by Northwell Health

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