AAP endorses concept of school physicians, nurses

January 3, 2013

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that all school districts should have a school physician to oversee student health services and policies. The recommendation appears in a new policy statement that addresses the overall well-being of children within the context of the school setting.

 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that all school districts should have a school physician to oversee student health services and policies. The recommendation appears in a new policy statement that addresses the overall well-being of children within the context of the school setting.

The concept of school physician is not new. Doctors have been active in the school setting since the late 1800s, first as medical inspectors, then as infectious disease specialists, and in more recent years as promoters of universal immunization. Today their role addresses the medical needs of children as individuals and as members of the school community.

Children spend approximately 7 hours each day, 180 days per year, in school, and many see their physicians only once each year. Health and education are interdependent, says the statement, and school physicians can act as liaisons among the medical home, the family, and the school to ensure that each child’s biopsychosocial needs are met.

School physicians should be board-certified pediatricians or physicians with expertise in pediatrics, including child growth and development, well-child maintenance, adolescent reproductive health, sports medicine, and immunizations, and knowledge about disease and risk management, special needs, and social services. Understanding of state, school, and public health laws, regulations, and policies also is a critical requisite.

Pediatricians can advocate for school and community-based health programs by becoming school physicians or serving on school boards and school health advisory groups. In addition, AAP districts and chapters should support school physicians and use their expertise to lobby for local district and state school health policies that benefit children.

The AAP also recommends that all schools have a registered professional school nurse to provide health services on a regular basis.