LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Kentucky Department of Education reports over 38,000 Jefferson County School students were chronically absent in the 2022–2023 school year.
Norton Healthcare is working with Jefferson County Public Schools to reduce absences by providing telehealth services to elementary schools.
Jacob Elementary School nurse, Angela Robinson, has worked at the school for four years and now says students are more likely to come to her if they are feeling ill.
“When I say, ‘Hey, we’re going to get you in to see the doctor,’ a lot of them are delayed at first. And I’m like, no, no, no, no. This is a doctor. Let’s see how cold it is, you know? And I’ll say, ‘Hey, have you seen Star Wars? Have you seen, you know, Guardians of the Galaxy or something like that?’ And then they’re like, ‘Yeah,’ and I’m like, Well, it’s just like that. And then they want to be able to see the doctor,” Robinson said.
It’s not science fiction. Robinson uses a device with a camera and a strong microphone to pick up on the sound of what’s going on inside the student’s body.
Students can visit with a member of Norton Healthcare without leaving school property.
A few of the conditions the visits can treat are colds, fevers, earaches, rashes, pinkeye and sore throats.
Robinson said, “If they just have a little virus, like a normal childhood virus, you really don’t want to send them to an ER and risk them picking up something else. So this way we can get them in and out. And normally the visits don’t last 10 minutes because we’ve already done all the pre-testing.”
JCPS says the program aims to get answers quicker so students and teachers can stay at school if they are healthy.
“It does make it a lot easier to have that support instead of just kind of wondering, ‘Okay, what’s in my school?’ Because now I can track it. You know, I can track. Okay, this class has this many in this class as at many,” Robinson said.
The Norton eCare School Telehealth program is now in 14 nurses’ offices and expanding to 50 JCPS elementary schools.
The school district hopes to expand the program to all 90 elementary schools soon and provide care for students with chronic illnesses like diabetes.
The program is funded through a $122,000 grant provided by the Norton Children’s Hospital Foundation.