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South Carolina school nurse leadership program develops crucial leadership skills

This week marked the start of the state's eagerly awaited Public School Nurse Leadership Program, a collaborative effort led by the University of South Carolina College of Nursing, in partnership with the SC Department of Environmental Control and the SC Department of Education.

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“I am excited to partner with the USC College of Nursing, the Department of Education, and DHEC to offer the state’s first Public School Nurse Leadership Development Program,” says Carolyn Swinton, CEO of Reveille Executive Coaching and Consulting Services. “School Nurses play an important role in supporting the health and well-being of our most precious treasure, our children. This cohort is engaged, committed, and ready to embark on a transformational journey to becoming exceptional nurse leaders.”

Before the pandemic, all South Carolina Public School Districts had lead nurses, but many juggled multiple school responsibilities alongside their essential student care duties. Innovative opportunities for state schools were introduced thanks to Covid Public Health Workforce Development funds allocated by the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (SC DHEC). This included a retention bonus program for dedicated school nurses who served during the pandemic's challenges. Lead nurses were also invited to transition into full-time administrative roles, empowering them to provide vital training, assess nursing teams' skills, enhance school health policies, and more. Ten school districts embraced this program, committing to sending their unencumbered lead nurses for specialized leadership training.

What’s happening 

In partnership with a school nurse advisory group and state liaisons, the University of South Carolina College of Nursing crafted a tailored curriculum addressing the unique needs of school nursing, focusing on leadership and management skills for seamless integration into K-12 education.

"School nursing enhances academics by aiding students in managing chronic illnesses, mental health, and public health initiatives like immunization compliance,” says Vicki Ladd, SC DHEC State School Nurse Consultant. “Dean Andrews, USC College of Nursing, and SC Association of School Nurses are key partners in our School Nurse Leadership Program, offering essential leadership development, education sector management training and peer support."

The solution

While educator leadership programs abound, it's crucial to highlight the scarcity of programs targeting school nurses in this unique context. This pioneering initiative bridges nursing and education, offering in-person workshops for 16 dedicated nurses to develop leadership skills and confidence while fostering a supportive peer network. Additionally, virtual sessions co-presented by esteemed district nursing directors and administrators cover various educational aspects, from transportation to special education.

“The College of Nursing strongly believes that partnered approaches to solutions facing our state’s nurses and the patients and communities we serve are vital to making a positive and sustainable impact. This alliance with school nurse leaders, DHEC and the Department of Education is a prime exemplar of what’s possible in our state,” says Dean Jeannette Andrews, USC College of Nursing. 

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