School health centers boosting student wellness

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Community leaders continue to make it a goal to improve Wilson County students’ health and well-being. That’s why they’ve expanded the school-based health center initiative to Beddingfield High School. This upcoming school year, students there will have access to health services right on campus.

Wilson County Health Director Teresa Ellen gave commissioners an update on that project as well as strides made this past school year at the Forest Hills Middle School health center, which opened in February 2017. Beddingfield will be the second center for Wilson County.


For the 2017-18 school year, Ellen said 325 Forest Hills students were enrolled at the Wilson Area Student Health Center. That’s about 60 percent of the school’s total student population.

“We also began to see teachers this school year,” Ellen said. She told commissioners since that center has been up and running, health workers have seen many success stories. The center has multiple offices and exam rooms and feels like a doctor’s office.

Ellen said providers found a cardiac issue in one child that may have gone unnoticed. Health center workers provided close observation of students with diabetes and provided treatment to asthma patients as well.

“We’ve assisted children who have had seizures,” Ellen said.

One child complained of a tummy ache, but the nurse realized the child was hungry. Ellen told commissioners they were able to get that child referred to the CHEW program, or Children’s Hunger Elimination of Wilson, which feeds chronically hungry kids on the weekends. Same-day athletic physicals were also provided.

Ellen said the health center was also able to refer students to counseling services. She said many times, children come in with a physical complaint, but officials quickly realize they need counseling and other services.

“These are just a few stories of the impact this school-based health center has had,” Ellen said.

She said they also see a lot of cuts and sports injuries as well.

“Many of these are non-billable visits, but we do know that it keeps children in the classroom,” Ellen said. “Otherwise, they would call Mom to go to an urgent care.”

The school-based health centers have been made possible through the Healthcare Foundation of Wilson, which recently awarded the health department a $175,000 grant that will continue to fund the center at Forest Hills Middle School and the new one at Beddingfield.

Staff provide diagnosis, treatment and resolution of health problems, treating a variety of issues including the flu.

The clinic’s goal is to bridge the gap between students’ education and their health, officials say. The centers are staffed with registered nurses and a nurse practitioner.


While Forest Hills’ center is housed inside the school, Beddingfield has a 12-by-54 foot modular structure. That facility will have two exam rooms, a lab area, waiting room and reception window.

After safety and aesthetic concerns were brought up last month regarding the modular unit and its placement in front of Beddingfield’s cafeteria, near the student entrance, the school board voted to change the structure’s placement.

“We are hoping to have this unit in its final resting place very soon,” Ellen told commissioners.

Ellen said the plan is to move it down a little bit and angle it. Brick siding will be added to the mobile unit’s exterior to match Beddingfield’s brick facade, she added.

The school system will absorb those costs.

Ellen said health officials will also be implementing telemedicine this year for both sites. She said if the nurse practitioner is working at Forest Hills Middle, she will still be able to see patients at Beddingfield by coordinating with the on-site registered nurse who can also relay signs and symptoms.

“We are really excited about utilizing this new technology,” Ellen told commissioners.

In 2014, Wilson County Schools and Wilson 20/20 Community Vision developed a strategic youth master plan with a series of recommendations to improve the lives of youth in Wilson. School-based health centers were a part of that strategy identified under the health and wellness plan.