How the National Association of School Nurses is preparing to care for grieving students this year

The New York Life Foundation is a lead founding member of the Coalition to Support Grieving Students, a collaboration among leading K-12 professional organizations to deliver better support to grieving children at school. In this Q&A, Donna Mazyck, MS, RN, NCSN, CAE, the Executive Director of the National Association of School Nurses (a founding member of the Coalition), describes how her organization is preparing its members to care for grieving students in the upcoming year.

Why do you think it is important for school nurses to become better prepared to support grieving students?

School nurses connect with students and their families in schools and in the communities where they live. When students, schools, and communities experience loss, school nurses join with other school staff to anticipate and prepare to deliver care and support. Adding to the resources school nurses have available to better prepare for student responses to grief multiplies the support students receive. In some situations, students visit the school nurse with physical complaints that are manifestations of emotional concerns. While school nurses assess students for those physical complaints, conversation and clues may surface grieving responses. Increasing access to quality bereavement resources and tools better equips school nurses to effectively provide student support.

How has your organization and its members benefitted from being part of the Coalition?

The National Association of School Nurses and its members greatly benefit from being part of the Coalition to Support Grieving Students. The videos on the Coalition website enhance adult learning to care for students. School nurses share these resources with their school communities. We also value the articles prepared by the Coalition on a range of topics related to supporting grieving students and share these articles in our newsletters. All these resources give school nurses real-time, student-focused professional development.

What has NASN done to help its members become more skilled in this area?

NASN provides school nurses (both our members and school nurses who are not members) access to Coalition resources through periodic messages in our weekly electronic newsletter and through social media postings. In addition, NASN invited Dr. David Schonfeld, Director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, to present to school nurses on relevant topics in general sessions at the NASN 2015 and 2017 national conferences. Both sessions were well received by conference attendees because of the immediacy and relevancy of the topics.

Are there any areas you hope to focus on in the next couple years to help your membership become even better prepared?

NASN plans deeper educational programs, resources, and tools to prepare school nurses for 21st century school nursing practice that is student-centered. This focus requires deeper knowledge and actions in support of grieving students. So, NASN will continue to share Coalition resources, hear from school nurses about their specific needs in supporting grieving students, and use that feedback to plan educational programming. The Coalition website holds many of those tools NASN will be disseminating to school nurses. It is certain that the need for support for grieving students will continue. NASN is grateful to partner with the Coalition to continue adding to the knowledge and skills of school nurses so they can better help their students.