Trail high school students now have a nurse at school to answer all of their health questions.
Registered nurse practitioner Grace Nakano has set up shop in the J.L. Crowe Secondary School front office as an on-site health professional, providing confidential care and advice to students.
Nakano has already begun seeing patients at the high school and says the service is there for students who need privacy or objective answers about a medical issue.
“I think that a lot of times, even though a student has family and friends they usually talk to, they may be more comfortable talking to a health care provider,” she said from the health office at the Trail high school.
“Especially in a small town, sometimes students can be hesitant to talk to a family member or their family doctor. They could have friends or family who work at a clinic or might not understand privacy issues.”
Student privacy is something that the new clinic and nurse takes seriously. The school won’t be keeping records of who goes to see Nakano, what was spoken about, or when they visited. The service is an extension of Interior Health with the school acting as a venue.
“I feel that it is important to be up front about that,” said J.L Crowe Principal David DeRosa. “There will be times where the kids will go in and talk to Grace and the parents won’t be aware. There is a health care legislative component to that and we just want to be transparent about it.”
Nakano is a registered nurse practitioner, which means that her job description covers more than the average nurse. She can write specialist referrals, x-rays, blood work, pregnancy tests, writing birth control prescriptions and tests for sexually transmitted diseases, among other services.
DeRosa says the new on-site nurse also benefits students with run-of-the-mill health questions who don’t want to sit in the emergency room at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (KBRH).
“I asked the kids at our grade-wide meeting, how many of them had sat in the emergency room for two hours, and everybody’s hands went up,” he said, adding that the clinic will also benefit students who are new to the school. “We know that if you are new to the area, it is very difficult to get access to a family doctor. What is our priority? Our priority is the students.”
Although the clinic is still in its infancy, DeRosa says he has already heard plenty of encouraging feedback from parents and students.
“I have heard lots, and it was all positive,” he said, adding that he has spoken to members of the community as well. “It isn’t just parents either which is interesting. I have also heard good things from the community both through telephone and through email. They see the positive benefits of the clinic.”
With a background in mental health care, Nakano says her experience is well-suited for the needs of high school students who may not be getting the help they need.
“I work in mental health at the Kiro Wellness Centre with at-risk and vulnerable populations,” she said. “I have capacity within my position to take on more patients or do some more outreach and I figured that high school students have some vulnerabilities. So I thought it would be a good place to reach some of the higher risk students that might need health care and don’t have access to it.”
Nakano is at the Trail high school on Thursday mornings from 9-10:30 a.m.
For the rest of the week, Nakano works at the Kiro Wellness Centre in Trail and at the Nelson Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services facility. She also spends a couple hours a week with high school students at L.V. Rogers Secondary School in Nelson.