After a successful pilot in Sioux Falls, an innovative program that extends school nurse expertise through telemedicine is now available to K-12 school districts throughout South Dakota.

Avera eCARE School Health provides schools with access to registered nurses via advanced two-way video technology.

“A student’s ability to learn is directly related to his or her health. When you provide students with access to the health care they need, you’re not only improving their health – you’re also investing in their education and future,” says Molly Satter, RN, MSN, Health Services and District 504 Coordinator for the Sioux Falls School District. “Anytime you can give a student access to a registered nurse, you decrease the obstacles they have to learning.”
Yet, the reality of stretched school budgets and increasing student health needs makes providing students with timely health care a challenge.

By connecting schools with a registered nurse via telemedicine, Avera eCARE offers a time-efficient and cost-effective solution. At any time during the school day, a school staff member can request a telemedicine consultation for urgent health care needs due to injury or illness. Within minutes, a registered nurse is available to assess the situation and advise the staff member on how to help the student.

Telemedicine Technology at Agar-Blunt-Onida School District

In February of 2017, the Agar-Blunt-Onida School District integrated eCARE School Health throughout their schools thanks to a four-year grant. For Mary Jo Stier, an administrative assistant at Sully Buttes High School in Onida, S.D., the new addition to their team provided reassurance and relief.

“It’s a lot less stressful now when a student is sick because we have a nurse available to assess the situation and make recommendations,” she says. “It’s also really helped improve our attendance because the eCARE nurses know when a student is healthy enough to stay in school.”

“The education the eCARE team provides for us has also been great,” she adds. “We’re trained on how to use the equipment including an otoscope so the nurses can see inside a student’s ear, nose or throat, if needed. By watching the students and nurses interact, I’ve also learned a lot about what signs and symptoms to look for. The nurses are wonderful with the kids.”

Comprehensive Nursing Support for Schools

In addition to providing care, eCARE School Health nurses can design school health programs and emergency health plans, guide care for students living with a chronic or complex health condition, offer medical advice for 504 and Individual Education Program (IEP) plans, support case management and provide referrals to health care and community resources.

“When you partner with eCARE School Health, you also get access to Avera eCARE’s trustworthy expertise and insight to help your school build a successful health services program,” says Satter.

Even districts that already have an on-site school nurse – such as the Sioux Falls School District – benefit from having a nurse colleague available for back-up, support and collaboration, as needed.

As part of the pilot program, Satter has already seen how the Sioux Falls School District benefits from eCARE School Health. “The program has been very well received by parents, staff and students. In fact, it was so beneficial during the pilot phase that we committed to continuing the program this school year.”

Another benefit for schools is the ability to have expert nursing oversight for giving students the medications they need throughout the school day.

“A lot of schools don’t realize the liability associated with school health,” says Sheila Freed, RN, eCARE School Health Director. “The South Dakota Board of Nursing requires school staff to have medication training before delivering medications to students. They also require the oversight of a registered nurse. If a school doesn’t follow these guidelines, they may not realize the potential liability they’re facing. With eCARE School Health, we can help schools decrease that risk of liability while providing better care to kids and giving staff peace of mind.”

“As a small school, we weren’t able to have a nurse on staff, but now we have a supervising nurse through Avera eCARE who can monitor medications for our students and help us make sure that we meet the state requirements,” adds Stier.

Learn more about the eCARE School Health program.