McMaster University

McMaster University

Vote to keep nurse practitioners in Hamilton high schools

Sue Grafe and third-year nursing students Ruth Wilsonne and Larissa Glover
From left: Sue Grafe, nurse practitioner and master's student in nursing; and third-year nursing students Ruth Wilsonne and Larissa Glover.

The McMaster University School of Nursing (SON) and its partners in an innovative new project are asking for your online vote to keep nurse practitioners (NP) in two Hamilton high schools.

The Primary Care for At-Risk Youth initiative will provide an NP to two of the highest-needs schools in Hamilton — Sir John A. MacDonald and Cathedral — to improve the health and well-being of at-risk students and their families. A pilot project is currently underway in these schools in the form of NP health and wellness centres, but funding ends in December.

The idea has made it to the third qualifying round of the Aviva Community Fund — an annual competition that contributes $1 million to projects that create positive change in communities across Canada. The initiative is supported by the nursing school, Refuge Hamilton Centre for Newcomer Health, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, and the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board.

The team has a chance to win a $100,000 grant if it can obtain thousands of online votes from students and other members of the community.

"Studies have shown that youth having access to health care in schools are more likely to stay in school. Most days the NP is seeing about 15 students in a four-hour period, so the need for these centres is high," said Dyanne Semogas, one of the project leads and an assistant professor with the School of Nursing. "With a strong desire to fill this need and little money to work with, our team is making a difference, but we need votes from everyone to get this funding to continue and expand this program."

The two centres provide health services for students and are currently run by an NP with assistance from third-year McMaster nursing students and an NP student. NPs can diagnose illnesses, order and interpret diagnostic tests, write prescriptions, and make referrals to specialists.

Both schools have high newcomer populations, and enrol many students who live in poverty. A large number of these students are also without a family doctor.

Principals in Hamilton schools most challenged by poverty have identified mental health as the most serious issue in their schools, project organizers said, noting however that there are substantial benefits in taking a broader approach by addressing overall health.

"The use of our nursing faculty and students enables access to care by a larger number of students in these high-needs schools, while providing nursing students with valuable clinical experience in primary health care," said Catherine Tompkins, associate dean of Health Sciences and director of the SON. "I encourage everyone to vote for this collaborative and innovative approach. Every vote counts."

Click here to vote for this initiative in the Aviva Community Fund competition until Nov. 26. You can vote once a day. Select projects receiving the highest number of votes, in the thousands, will move on to the semi-final round.

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