If you ever visited the nurses’ office or had an eye exam at school as a child, you benefitted from campus healthcare initiatives. Community schools can (and should) go beyond education to serve as critical healthcare providers for students, staff, and their families.
Unfortunately, many school districts have been forced to re-evaluate their healthcare options in recent years due to financial challenges, staffing issues, and the general volatility that accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead of cutting back on healthcare services, now is the time for schools to look for innovative new solutions to provide better care. By keeping the entire school community healthy, schools facilitate more successful learning for every student and a safer environment for all.
Let’s take a look at why on-campus healthcare in schools is so vital, how it’s changed over the years, and what schools can do today to improve their healthcare options.
The History of Healthcare in Schools
Public schools in the United States have provided some form of healthcare for over a century. Most schools started offering health education and care in the late 19th century, and many states started officially mandating that schools provide healthcare around the 1920s.
In the decades since, school healthcare initiatives have expanded dramatically, providing essential screenings for young children, facilitating vaccinations, and promoting awareness to prevent the spread of illness.
However, since 2020, many schools have been in survival mode. Navigating the challenging COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic fallout has meant that many schools have needed to alter or cut back on their healthcare programs.
During the pandemic, many schools switched to an online learning model, which also made it difficult to provide healthcare services to those in need. Although most schools have since returned to in-person learning, reinstating those healthcare services has been challenging.
Nationwide labor shortages have made it difficult for schools to rehire staff members who previously performed these services. Additionally, many school districts across the country have seen a drop in funding.
This is partially because COVID-19-related emergency funds have run out, but many schools have also seen drops in enrollment and therefore funding. Tighter budgets mean that schools often have to cut back to the bare minimum when it comes to healthcare.
This lack of healthcare has real consequences for students. Many students and their families, particularly those who have lower-income backgrounds, rely on their schools for essential health screenings and basic care for illness and injury.
It’s estimated that roughly 4.2% of children in the United States don’t have any health insurance and even families that do often rely on free in-school care options to manage costs. In other words, school healthcare isn’t just a luxury for some, but a necessity.
Benefits of School Healthcare Initiatives
Making basic healthcare available at school results in a variety of benefits not only for students but for their families and the entire community.
The biggest benefit is that it makes basic healthcare accessible to all students, regardless of their background or socioeconomic status. Even if students don’t have health insurance or a primary care provider, they will still get basic health screenings and checks to ensure that serious health issues don’t go untreated.
When in-school health screenings are conducted regularly, they have the opportunity to catch physical and mental illnesses that might have otherwise gone untreated. Schools can offer screenings for everything from vision and hearing impairment to ADHD and autism. Getting these diagnoses early in life ensures that students get the support they need as they grow and develop.
Additionally, school healthcare initiatives reduce the rate of absences related to illness or injury. When students and staff have access to preventative care and education, they’re less likely to take sick days. Fewer absences equate to more valuable time spent in the classroom and ultimately, a better education.
On-campus healthcare has become particularly important in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses can spread quickly throughout any school. When schools can provide vaccinations, PPE, and treatments for highly communicable illnesses, they prevent them from spreading throughout the school and causing mass absences.
Improving On-Campus Healthcare Initiatives
Despite the unique challenges that schools are facing, it’s more important than ever to provide healthcare options for students. Instead of tackling these challenges solo, many schools should consider bringing in an expert healthcare partner.
By working with an outside healthcare partner, schools can provide a broader range of services to students while staying within their budgets. Ideally, a healthcare partner should specialize in education and understand the unique challenges that schools face when it comes to healthcare.
One of the biggest advantages of working with a third-party healthcare specialist is that they tend to be more cost-efficient than hiring full-time healthcare staff to work in schools. Applying for grants and other financial support can help schools stretch a tight budget even further.
Additionally, these third parties already have the skills and the resources to offer a broad range of tests and other services. This means schools won’t have to spend extra time or money training new staff members. A healthcare partner can even provide helpful guidance on regulations in specific states to ensure that the school’s offerings are up to par.
In-School Healthcare for Everyone
Schools play such an important role in every child’s development, and healthcare is a key part of this. By prioritizing on-campus care, schools create a better learning environment for students and support a healthier, happier community for everyone.
About Thomas Shaffer
Thomas Shaffer stands at the helm of Campus Clinic, holding the esteemed position of President. In this role, he spearheads a transformative healthcare initiative, providing school-based healthcare solutions that are revolutionizing healthcare access on campuses. With a robust professional background, Shaffer’s journey into the realm of school-based healthcare is marked by his expertise as a healthcare consultant and his dedicated service as a Board Member for a Covid Clinic.
Since its inception, Shaffer has been the driving force behind Campus Clinic, guiding the company’s mission to broaden access to healthcare services within school environments. Campus Clinic’s vision, perfectly aligned with Shaffer’s, revolves around the radical transformation of healthcare accessibility on school campuses. Under Shaffer’s leadership, the company actively engages with the community, collaborating with school districts to deliver high-quality healthcare services. His instrumental role in fostering these vital community initiatives reflects his commitment to enhancing healthcare accessibility and making a lasting impact on the lives of students. Through his dedication, Campus Clinic continues to pave the way for comprehensive and accessible healthcare within the educational landscape.