When a student sees the school nurse for a stomachache, tooth pain or other non-emergency medical situation, parents are often asked to pick them up and come back with a note from the doctor. This means kids miss school and adults lose time from work or other responsibilities. A new program between Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, VCU Dental Care and Glen Lea Elementary School in Henrico County solves for these concerns by giving school nurses, students and parents quick access to pediatricians and pediatric dentists via telehealth.

Medical and dental assessments where kids are – at school

If the school nurse needs some help diagnosing or managing an illness or injury, they can arrange for a telehealth appointment with a CHoR pediatrician or VCU Dental Care pediatric dentist – usually within 30 minutes. Parents/guardians are contacted by the school nurse prior to the virtual appointment so they can participate safely and securely from their phone or computer as well if their schedule allows.

“Our CHoR team wants to make sure kids and families get the health care they need – whether in our hospital and clinics, or throughout the community,” said Elias Neujahr, CHoR president. “The goal of this program is not to replace the great care children are already receiving from their regular pediatricians and dentists, but to help families manage health concerns efficiently during the school day.”

Concerns that can be addressed range from rashes, cold and flu symptoms, and pink eye suspicions – to joint pain and mild cuts to determine if a visit to the emergency department is needed.

A school administrator stands at a podium outdoors and addresses an audience

A collaborative approach to caring for kids

With families juggling work schedules, transportation, younger children at home and other daily responsibilities, the convenience of having immediate health concerns addressed remotely is appealing for many – but it’s just one piece of their overall health care picture.

“When we do a virtual visit with the school nurse, we communicate this with the child’s pediatrician so they stay informed and can provide follow-up care as needed. If an in-person visit is needed, we’ll direct families to their own physicians as well. It’s all about collaborating to keep kids healthy, thriving, and in the classroom with their teachers and peers as much as possible,” said Dr. Romesh Wijesooriya, division chair of general pediatrics at CHoR.

Dr. Henry Rozycki shared in his remarks at the clinic’s ribbon cutting, “As we saw what technology could do throughout COVID, it became clear that this was the best way to help Glen Lea, its students and its families with urgent health care support. A CHoR pediatric provider will be a quick teleconnection away, available to help the school nurse with common diagnoses and treatments…If our program can safely keep children in school, or allow them to return sooner, we will be able to significantly address one of the issues that interferes with education.”

VCU Dental Care’s pediatric dentists offer teledentistry visits for students through this program, too. When kids can’t concentrate or eat well because of mouth pain, it negatively impacts their performance in school and overall health.

“Tooth decay is the most common childhood disease and causes more hours of missed school than any other ailment,” says Tegwyn Brickhouse, D.D.S., Ph.D., a professor and chair of the Department of Dental Public Health and Policy at VCU School of Dentistry who was instrumental in bringing teledentistry into the partnership. “Telehealth screenings can provide information and early warning of tooth and mouth problems so the child’s primary dentist can address them before they become worse. Virtual visits can also be helpful in assessing mouth injuries that occur at school.”

“With the opening of the Glen Lea Telehealth Clinic we remove yet another barrier to wellness and academic growth for Glen Lea students,” said Dr. Amy Cashwell, superintendent of Henrico County Public Schools. “We know that children who are not feeling well may have difficulty focusing on their learning. Through this meaningful partnership with Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, VCU Dental Care and the Henrico Education Foundation, we are collectively wrapping our arms and services around our families to elevate student health and academic success.”

Parents can opt into or out of the program for their children at any time throughout the school year and are kept informed of all visits both in advance and through follow-up documentation. Any Glen Lea student covered by Virginia Medicaid, FAMIS or commercial insurance is eligible and there are no out-of-pocket costs to families.

Categories Pediatric Dentistry, Public Health, Schoolwide News