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Pediatricians Promote Benefits of Recess

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Key Role for School Doctor

A second AAP policy statement wants schools to assign important roles for a school doctor and school nurse.

School doctors serve school districts as advisors, consultants, volunteers, team doctors, or school district doctors.

But there's no single set of rules for states and school districts about what a school doctor should do. The new policy statement wants all school districts to have a doctor to oversee health services.

What's more, school doctors should help coordinate policy and practice plans for kids with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and asthma. The AAP policy statement says kids spend about seven hours a day,180  days a year, in school. During that time they may only see their doctor once a year.

"Doctors in schools can be consultants to nurses and connect with the nurse in any way possible," Murray says. "Generally, it is a beneficial thing for schools to have a physician that they can easily identify and go to in case of emergency or policy development."

Miami Children's Hospital pediatrician Gloria Riefkohl reviewed the new policy statements for WebMD. She says that there is a role for school doctors. "They can serve as liaisons between the school and the child's medical home. And this can avoid disconnects between what is going on at school and outside of school."

Cynthia Devore, MD, co-author of the policy statement on school doctors, also stressed the role of liaison for a school doctor. 

"The best medical model for management of seizures or diabetes in a medical setting or home might be a rescue medicine that might frighten school staff who are unlicensed lay persons, like a bus driver or a secretary," she says. "The school physician can be a valuable liaison among the medical home, the school, and the family, educating all parties as to what is safe and reasonable, and working with the school nurse to develop a plan that allows for sound medical management of a child."

The school doctor and school nurse enhance one another's contribution to the school, she says. 

"Every school district should have a school physician who is either a pediatrician or a physician with expertise in children, and every school building a school nurse, ideally a registered nurse or school-nurse teacher," she says. "Together, a school physician and school nurse should be a well-oiled team-machine able to implement the goals identified by the medical home and the family into the school setting."

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