The rollout of the School Nurse Champions initiative was among the highlights at day 1 of this year's JFHC Live [12-13 March].

Speaking to a group of school nurses and other primary care health professionals, SAPHNA (School & Professional Health Nurses Association) professional officer Sharon White urged school nurses to take on a leadership roll saying only they "have the skills to lead child-focused teams across all health professions".

She was joined in the opening session of the event by Department of Health nurse advisor Wendy Nicholson who re-iterated the importance of school nurses being "visible, accessible and confidential".

Nicholson said: "The primary role of school nurses is to improve public health, be that by influencing commissioners, teachers, parents or pupils themselves.

"The localism agenda is crucial at the moment and offers a great chance to push the position of school nurses as leaders in public health."

A key part of this for Nicholson is the transition of the school nurse main information delivery method from leaflets and posters to more modern forms of communication.

"Face-to-face communication remains useful but from the conversations we've had with pupils they all say that just knowing they have someone they can contact quickly by text, Twitter or email is incredibly important in building trust levels," she added.

"Equally, with resources so tight for most schools at present, we [school nurses] should also be looking to take advantage of social media's opportunities for fast, effective sharing of best practice.

"Then we can best use that technology to make time for what our key role always should be: making a difference in children's lives."

She closed by announcing the rollout of a new 'School Nurse Champions' initiative, which aims to create network of nurses looking to support the health and wellbeing needs of young carers click here for more information

That initiative will be run in collaboration with SAPHNA, whose professional officer, Sharon White, also had some important advice for school nurses.

"There are less than 5,000 school nurses in the UK compared to 8.1 million school-aged children; that's one nurse to every 1,620 students. The likelihood of new staff or resources is limited at best at the moment so we must find ways to work smarter," she said.

"It's crucial we engage the wider group of healthcare professionals: CAMHS; primary care; district nurses; doctors etc. that work with children in order to make those numbers add up to a solution that improves health outcomes for all children."

Highlighting the fact that the UK has the worst mortality rate for under-14s of any country in Europe, the SAPHNA professional officer said those solutions can't come quick enough.

"If you can illustrate gaps in provision and are passionate about improving child health then go straight to commissioners or local authority boards with your ideas. With the advent of localism, they are keen to hear what can be done in their area.

"Getting it right takes time but if we [school nurses] work together tackling small bite-sized chunks at a time, we can deliver more," she concluded.

Other key talks on day 1 of the event included Trixie McAree's review of perceptions of group practice midwifery for foreign-born women and Barbara Evans' look at the future of community nursery nursing. We will have video and audio highlights of these on the website over the coming weeks.

For all the live coverage from day 2, follow @journalfhc on Twitter, including seminars on youth mental health first aid, the importance of outdoor play, tackling childhood obesity, child growth charts and IBS.

Posted 12/3/2013 by richard.hook@pavpub.com