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Florida Hospital and Orange County Department of Health alliance helps keep students in school

One school nurse shares her story of working at an Orlando high school

Monday June 2, 2014
Darcy Ravndal , RN
Darcy Ravndal , RN
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“For some kids, this is their only contact with the medical system,” Darcy Ravndal said about her position as the school nurse at Edgewater High School in Orlando, Fla. Unlike many school nurses, Ravndal, RN, ARNP, MPH, C-PNP, staffs a school-based health center where she offers primary care for Edgewater students as well as elementary and middle school students from six nearby schools.

Since Ravndal began working at Edgewater High in October, she has had more than 1,000 patient encounters. She sees between 15 and 20 students daily, providing first aid, diagnosing illnesses and often counseling. “Ninety-five percent of the students I see go right back to class,” Ravndal said. “They might have a headache, cramps or a rash. In the past, they would have gone home.” Ravndal says she can prescribe and dispense medications to help students deal with these complaints.

During office hours of 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., Ravndal’s visits with students often center around preventive care and counseling for weight management and teen safety issues such as adequate sleep, driving and Internet use. Mental health needs are significant. While counseling teens, she screens for depression and connects students to community resources.

Florida Hospital funding

“It’s an incredible opportunity to meet the health needs of students,” said Florida Hospital Vice President for Community Impact Verbelee Nielsen-Swanson, MBA. She said when Florida Hospital became aware of the opportunity through a foundation that works with the local school board, the hospital chose to fund two days a week. “If students aren’t feeling well, they’re not going to be able to stay in school. This [health center] provides excellent access for students.”

Ravndal said some students who come to the health center have no healthcare access; others are on Medicaid or have insurance. Mary Brett-Blehl, RN, MSN, APHN-BC, senior community health nursing supervisor/program manager of school health for the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, said this and eight other school health centers focus on underserved and at-risk communities.

Unique partnership details

The Edgewater High School-based health center is a partnership between Florida Hospital, the Florida Department of Health of Orange County, Orange County Public Schools, the Orange County Citizens’ Commission for Children, the Winter Park Health Foundation and Florida Health Partners, said Mary Brett-Blehl, RN, of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County. The school health centers, which began in 1998, also provide services to students at nearby schools and to community members such as preschoolers who need physicals.


Karen Schmidt, RN, is a freelance writer. Post a comment below or email editorSouth@nurse.com.