When students at the Portage School District have their vision screened, the nursing students who examine them are looking beyond just their eyesight.
It’s a chance to assess their overall wellness and consider anything that could be done to improve their health. This is a lesson that UW–Madison nursing students take from their rounds with Portage School District Nurse Valerie Hon.
After starting her career as a public health nurse, Hon completed her nurse certificate through an online program offered by UW–Madison and has been serving the school district for 10 years. Her position puts her in charge of students’ wellbeing in all eight of the district’s buildings, whether it is injury treatment and prevention or addressing chronic health conditions such as diabetes or seizure disorders.
You are always learning, striving to stay current, and trying to give back to others.
Working collaboratively with public health officials, the community in Portage, Wisconsin, and medical researchers helps improve students’ health throughout the district and beyond as advances and breakthroughs become commonplace.
At UW–Madison, for example, part of the school nursing research involved the development of an online application called eSchoolCare to bring together diagnostic and treatment tools for students with chronic health conditions.
“It lets school nurses do the job more effectively and help a student who needs it,” she says. “You may have a student who is out for a few days and returns to class after being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. You need a care plan on return. Now any school district in Wisconsin has a better way to offer this.”
Being involved in efforts such as these has encouraged Hon to accept more leadership roles. She became involved in the Wisconsin Association of School Nurses, took a position on its board, and was elected president this year.
Hon says that as she worked to complete her school nurse certificate, her instructors at UW–Madison placed an emphasis on collegiality and working together to improve students’ health.
“Having connections to others is invaluable,” she says “You are always learning, striving to stay current, and trying to give back to others.”