Hearing is mandated in Arizona for school kids, but not vision.
BY JENNIFER L. MILLER, RN
I am the nursing supervisor for the Yavapai County Education Service Agency (YCESA) in Prescott, Arizona. As a needs-based organization, YCESA provides a variety of services to any interested local schools. Often, these are schools that cannot afford to hire full time staff. The services including nursing, counseling, physical and occupational therapy. The YCESA supports 28 schools in our rural, far-flung county.
Arizona mandates proof of a hearing test for school entry . No such requirement exists for vision. To emphasize the importance of vision screening, our team decided to write a grant. Grant’s goal was to create a screening program in the Prescott Unified School District. The program would ultilize our Plusoptix autorefractor. The school had been using traditional vision screenings methods, which are difficult for preschoolers to comply with. Even some kindergarteners can struggle with eye charts as well as children with special needs.
We screen kids all year long, but there is a special emphasis during the first semester of school. We can do vision and hearing screening on about 100 children in a day. The school assists by mailing or hand delivering referrals when a child needs to visit an eye doctor. We provide the necessary information and let parents/caregivers know they can contact the school for additional help. We coordinate resources through the Lions Club and Vision Service Plan’s gift certificate program. A program that is facilitated through the National Association of School Nurses.
Our local Lions Club supports our screening programs and has generously donated the Plusoptix device. This method of device-based screening is a huge benefit to our programs. Users can quickly screen both eyes at the same time. Among the 4,546 children we screened through our program during the 2017-2018 school year, 492 were referred. This is a referral rate of about 10%.
Our agency feels it is important to put a spotlight on vision screening. The importance of our identifying vision problems early in children cannot be overstated. Many children can grow out of glasses when their vision is corrected at a young age. By around 9 years of age, the success of treatment is drastically reduced.
Vision is key to children’s learning as well as their social development. I have a passion for school nursing. I believe it is important for us to take advantage of opportunities for prevention. Our role is to assist families when needed. We build them up together as we advocate for children.
Vision and Eye Health
The following is guidance from several advocacy groups to help steer those “front line” of vision screening. The initiative aims to standardize approaches to programs.
“A comprehensive vision health program is a school nurse intervention that makes a significant measurable difference in a student’s overall health and learning.” The group lists its 12 components of a strong vision health system of care:
- Family education
- Comprehensive communication/approval process
- Vision screening tools and procedures
- Vision health for children with special healthcare needs
- Standardized approach for re-screening
- Comprehensive vision screening results
- Systemized approach to follow-up
- Resources for eye care
- Collect eye examination results
- Effective communication with the medical home
- Adherence to treatment
- Annual vision health program evaluation
For more information about the National Association of School Nurses, please visit: https://www.nasn.org/nasn-resources/practice-topics/vision-health
For more information about the Plusoptix Vision Screener, see: https://plusoptix.com/en/vision-screener/landing
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