The Maine Department of Education, Maine Department of Health and Human Services, and Avel eCare have partnered to deliver telehealth nursing services to school districts throughout the state, enabling access to nursing services in communities that are struggling with staffing and workload pressures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the nationwide school nursing shortage.
To expand these school nursing services, the state of Maine used a portion of its COVID-19 federal relief funding to pilot a program with Avel eCare. The eCare School Health program, which has been an Avel service line since 2015, delivers school nurse services virtually via a secure, two-way video mobile unit. The service is being offered at no cost to schools.
“Our school nurses have been on the frontlines throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, caring for students and providing critical support to keep students, staff and schools safe. They are absolute heroes,” said Education Commissioner Pender Makin. “We also know they are exhausted and stretched so thin, and that many schools have not been able to find the experienced school nurse staff they need. This partnership with Avel eCare, made possible with federal funds, offers additional nursing support to help fill shortages in our schools and expand the care we provide to our students.”
“We’re pleased to partner on this important effort to provide telehealth school nursing services to Maine schools as part of strengthening Maine’s school-based health programs,” said Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “This model bridges gaps in school nursing coverage, helps schools maintain safe and healthy environments, and reduces barriers to learning by providing effective preventive care. School nurses have been invaluable during the COVID-19 pandemic and are a trusted resource for their students, school staffs, and communities.”
According to a recent U.S. CDC report, school nurses help students improve their academic outcomes and can also make a significant impact on the broader community. For example, every dollar invested into school nursing program results in society saving $2.20 because of a reduction in emergency room visits and parents taking time off of work to care for their sick children.
“Even before the pandemic, the lives of school nurses were busy. Now, their jobs have expanded to include public health, and that work is simply too big to do alone. We’re thankful to have the support of Avel eCare to help our nurse provide the daily health services that our children need,” said Tara McKechnie, Principal of Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School, which was among the first schools to implement the virtual school nurse program.
The program is currently accepting applications and eligible schools are urged to apply today to take advantage of the available grant funding. K-12 schools, once they fill out an online application, will then receive direct support from the eCare School Health team, at no cost to the school, through June 2023.