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Penn State PRO Wellness receives grant to launch mentorship program for school nurses in Pennsylvania

Penn State PRO Wellness at Penn State College of Medicine has been awarded $100,000 by the Moses Taylor Foundation to launch a new mentorship program for school-based nurses in northeastern Pennsylvania. The one-year pilot program will connect skilled nurses with more than five years of experience with early-career nurses to create opportunities for collaboration and professional development.

“As a general pediatrician, I see firsthand the key role our school nurses play in maintaining the health of Pennsylvania students. This became even more obvious during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Deepa Sekhar, Penn State Health pediatrician and executive director of PRO Wellness. “Our work with the Moses Taylor Foundation is an exciting opportunity to leverage our PRO Wellness team’s expertise to better understand and support our school nurses.”

As part of the project, PRO Wellness will develop and implement one-on-one and group learning strategies for nurses in 11 counties across northeastern Pennsylvania. In addition to capacity building among school-based health professionals, the program is designed to help school nurses address emerging health concerns and support educational environments where nurses can assist school-aged children in developing healthy habits.

“Moses Taylor Foundation knows that school nurses are on the front lines of children’s health.  This mentorship pilot is an exciting opportunity to support newer school nurses and ensure they have the resources they need to help their students,” said Danielle Breslin, president and CEO of Moses Taylor Foundation.

Using guidelines established by the National Association of School Nurses (NASN), the mentorship program incorporates principles derived from NASN’s Framework for the 21st Century School Nursing Practice. This framework uses evidence-based practices that align with a “Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child” approach to nursing.

“School nurses are well positioned to be leaders, or champions, of wellness strategies in schools. Through this program we can connect new and in-training nurses to mentors and peer networks that can provide guidance on navigating common challenges and barriers,” said Alicia Hoke, senior research project manager for PRO Wellness. “We hope this support then creates capacity to embrace new responsibilities, such as the wellness champion role in their schools.”

The program, which will coincide with the 2023-24 school year, begins enrolling participants in April. Those applying to be mentees must be from school districts in Bradford, Carbon, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, Schuylkill, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Wayne or Wyoming counties. Nurses applying to be mentors are not required to be associated with schools in the 11-county region.

In order to be a mentee, individuals must have a bachelor’s degree in nursing or a degree in another field with unrestricted registered nurse (RN) licensure, and meet one of the following criteria:

  • Are pursuing their emergency certified school nurse (CSN) certification; or
  • Have graduated from a CSN program within the last three years or are school nurses with less than three years of experience.

Before the project concludes, PRO Wellness will evaluate the program to assess participant satisfaction, competencies and outcomes. Nurses interested in learning more should complete this interest form:

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