Student nurses measuring impact of new school clinics

5 June 2014

Five student nurses joined a research team going back into three South Auckland schools to measure the impact of regular classroom visits focusing on sore throats and skin infections.

The three schools are part of the Mana Kidz programme that has been rolled out in 61 South Auckland low decile primary and intermedite schools over the last 18 months as part of the nationwide push to reduce New Zealand’s high levels of Rheumatic Fever.

Mana Kidz involves health workers visiting all classrooms to not only offer central government-funded sore throat swabbing to the 23,000 children (and their siblings) but also offering nurse-led assessment and treatment to any kids in the class with suspected skin infections; due to additional targeted funding from Counties Manukau District Health Board.

Lizzie Farrell, clinical nurse manager for the Kidz First public health nurse team at the DHB, was part of the initial groundbreaking throat swabbing research project lead by Professor Diana Lennon, a University of Auckland paediatric researcher, in South Auckland in the late 1990s.

Lennon is also leading the current Health Research Council-funded project – comparing the prevalence of group A strep throat and skin infections prior and post Mana Kidz clinics – and Farrell said when it came time to pull together a research team to go back into the schools it was decided to include student nurses.

She said the five students are all third-year student nurses from Manukau Institute of Technology on an 8-10 week placement to learn about public health and population health nursing. The three week research project in the three schools was seen by Farrell and MIT nursing school head Willem Fourie as a good opportunity to both expose the students to clinical research in action and also intense exposure to child and family health.

The project team of five student nurses, four registered nurses, and a clinical nurse manager (plus an administrator) throat swabbed and assessed the skin of up to 1800 consented children at the three schools.

They then offered follow-up treatment, including liaising with families and offering antibiotic treatment under standing orders, for children found to have strep A throat or infected sores needing treatment.

Farrell said the student nurses manned stations with the first station seeing a student take the child’s temperature, weigh them, the child then goes to a second station where a student nurse take a throat swab before moving on to the final station where a public health nurse (with student nurse assisting) carries out a skin assessment.

The nurses assess the children for skin infections on their arms, legs, feet, back, tummy and the head and face area.

“The students are getting all that experience of assessing a child, taking a throat swab, doing all the lab work and then phoning up parents or going with the nurse to visit families and offer follow-up treatment,” said Farrell. “And it’s been a remarkable experience for these students who will very soon be registered nurses. It has been very successful.”

She said it also hopefully gave the students an introduction to public health and population health nursing with the project’s focus on a large number of people and offering preventative strategies to a whole school population compared to nursing an individual.

The project was expected to be completed in early June with the last of the follow-up visits to families of children needing treatment.