Hawaii News

Gov. Josh Green issues proclamation celebrating school nurses

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Hawaiʻi Keiki: Healthy & Ready to Learn Program. PC: UH Mānoa

Gov. Josh Green issued a proclamation recognizing National School Nurse Day on May 8, 2024. Green presented the proclamation to the Hawaiʻi Keiki: Healthy & Ready to Learn Program, University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing (NAWSON), Hawaiʻi Department of Education (HIDOE) and the Hawaiʻi Department of Health’s Public Health Nursing Branch at a ceremony on May 10.

Hawaiʻi Keiki, the state’s largest school nursing program with more than 50 school nurses in public schools, is a collaboration between NAWSON and HIDOE.

School nurses are licensed Registered Nurses and Nurse Practitioners who work in health clinics located on school campuses and provide no-cost health services to students. Many times a school nurse is the only licensed healthcare professional on campus and often serves a critical role in providing access to healthcare for rural or high-need communities. For students with no health insurance or with limited access to a healthcare facility, a school nurse may be the first and only healthcare professional they will see. The proclamation recognizes the fundamental role school nurses play in increasing healthcare equity for Hawaiʻi public school students as well as improving both health and learning outcomes, so they can embark on a lifelong path of wellness. 


“Hawaiʻi Keiki nurses are truly making a difference in the lives of our students,” said Deborah Mattheus, senior practice director for Hawaiʻi Keiki and NAWSON professor. “Our nurses are literally saving lives. They respond to urgent healthcare emergencies, connect students to medical homes and critical support services, and provide health education to the entire school community. They are invested in the physical, emotional and psychological health and wellbeing of their students. I am so proud of all of our nurses and the entire Hawaiʻi Keiki team for the amazing care and aloha they devote to their work. This National School Nurses Day is also very special for our program because we will be celebrating 10 years of our program this upcoming fall.”

In 2014, Hawaiʻi Keiki started with four nurses at Title I schools on Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi Island and Maui. In recognition of the benefit and impact of having nurses on school campuses, the program quickly expanded to 15 Nurse Practitioners, one in each HIDOE complex area. During the pandemic, in 2020, Hawaiʻi Keiki was called upon to help with providing much needed health resources and COVID-19 testing in schools in collaboration with HIDOE, the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health’s Public Health Nursing Branch, local partnerships with Federally Qualified Health Centers, Primary Care Providers, and other community partners. 

During this health crisis, Hawaiʻi Keiki launched an innovative health hotline and telehealth services, as a way to provide continued health coverage as students transitioned to remote learning. Due to its success during the pandemic, virtual telehealth visits became a part of the Hawaiʻi Keiki’s core services, expanding the reach to more students in rural areas. 


The pandemic highlighted the importance of school nurses. In 2020-2022, the Hawaiʻi Keiki program expanded to employ more than 55 Nurse Practitioners and Registered Nurses who serve HIDOE school keiki across the state. As a result, student visits to a Hawaiʻi Keiki clinic increased from 8,188 to 126,994 visits (up 1,451%) from the school year 2019-2020 to the school year 2022-2023. Of the these visits, 75% of these students returned to class instead of being sent home. Additionally, in 2022, Hawaiʻi Keiki began offering on-site and telehealth nursing services to select public charter schools.

National School Nurses Day highlights the unique contribution of school nurses and how students, families and the larger community in Hawaiʻi can benefit from having easier access to equitable healthcare. It is a testament to the tremendous impact school nurses have on Hawaiʻi communities and why the need for more school nurses is pertinent for a healthier future, according to the governor.


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