Telehealth program offers students access to school nurse

School staff will use a technology called MedNow to communicate with a registered nurse that is based in Grand Rapids.

MASON COUNTY, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU) — A Telehealth program is helping connect Mason County students to a professional school nurse within seconds, even if the nurse isn't in the building.

It's part of the Healthier Communities program through Spectrum Health.

School staff will use a technology called MedNow to communicate with a registered nurse based in Grand Rapids.

The nurses will be able to see and speak with students on a screen and assess any issues. They can also advise school faculty helping the student on the best course of action.

“If a student presents to an office, maybe they’ve got pink eye or a strange rash they have access to a school nurse through Telehealth during all school hours,” said Kaley Petersen, the director of Community Services at Spectrum Health.

Parents do not pay for the services, however, the school pays a fee to Spectrum Health.

“In order to make the diagnosis the provider might ask you to hold your camera up down your throat or look at a rash and they are able to evaluate you that way,” said Fritz Petersen, a MedNow Specialist with Spectrum Health.

Mason County Eastern Schools is one of the several in the county in the process of launching the program.

“We serve a rural area, so going to the doctor is a big deal," said Principal Mark Forner. "So the hope is that the program would not only provide needed services for our kids but also be convenient so that kids wouldn’t be required to miss school."

Experts in Grand Rapids can help kids with issues like diabetes, allergies, rashes and asthma attacks.

Through the program, an RN with Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital will also go into schools and train staff on first aid and how to administer certain medication.

“One of the main goals of this is to not only open up access, but to also decrease absenteeism but eliminating unnecessary reasons kids need to go home,” Petersen said.

Ludington Franklin Elementary and OJ DeJonge Middle School, as well as Mason County Central Schools, are also utilizing the program.

School officials and nurses hope to get the program and technology up and running in the schools in the next several weeks.

The Healthier Communities program provides support to nearly 46,000 children in 12 districts throughout western Michigan.

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