In a first of its kind collaboration for both parties, schools in Allen County, Kentucky, have joined with Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt so that sick children can receive a more comprehensive array of healthcare services while attending school through virtual visits with Vanderbilt clinicians.
Through a school-based telemedicine program, nurses with the Allen County Health Department who practice in the county’s four schools located in Scottsville, Kentucky, work with nurse practitioners and pediatricians in Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Primary Care Clinic to offer the county’s 3,000-plus students care for certain conditions typically requiring a trip to a pediatrician’s office.
The telemedicine initiative is especially beneficial because there are no pediatricians currently practicing in Scottsville or Allen County. Parents often drive more than a half-hour to the nearest pediatrician’s office or make the hour-and-a-half drive to Nashville.
A generous gift from Laura Jo and Wayne Dugas, the Cal Turner Family Foundation and the James Stephen Turner Family Foundation made this initiative possible. In addition to serving the healthcare needs of Allen County school children, the gift also supports the hospital’s expansion currently under construction — and will establish telemedicine facilities within the new space. The expansion was supported by generous contributions to the Growing to New Heights Campaign from donors throughout the community.
The Dugas and Turner families are from Scottsville, where the family’s patriarch, Cal Turner Sr., founded Dollar General Corporation. The family continues to have deep roots in Scottsville and Allen County.
“It’s an absolutely wonderful opportunity for the students of the Allen County school system and we’re very grateful for the help the Turner Foundation has given us over the years,” said Randall Jackson, Superintendent of Allen County Schools. “The potential for the general health and well-being of our students, in connection with Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital, is tremendous.”
School-based telemedicine is beneficial when students’ health issues fall outside a school nurse’s typical scope of practice. The technology includes encrypted, secure, high definition videoconferencing capabilities. Parents are able to link in from anywhere and be part of their child’s virtual clinic visit via a phone, tablet or computer. Prescriptions can be sent to the family’s preferred pharmacy, and a follow-up communication is sent to the student’s primary care clinician.
The initiative is possible because each school is staffed with a full-time registered nurse from the Allen County Health Department. In addition to common illnesses, the schools’ nurses also manage students who have serious chronic health conditions such as asthma, allergies, diabetes and seizures.
“The Allen County Health Department school nursing staff is excited and grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with the Allen County School System and Vanderbilt on the telemedicine initiative. I feel this will become the new standard of nursing care for students not only in Allen County but also for Kentucky. This is a rare and very special opportunity for Allen County to improve health outcomes locally and be a model for our state,” said Carolyn Richey, RN, Nursing Supervisor for the Allen County Health Department.
Services offered will include treatment for conditions such as fever, sore throat, ear pain, nausea, abdominal pain, skin irritations and sprains.
“This initiative, which is possible through the generosity of the Dugas and Turner families, will allow us to reduce travel time and stress for these children and their families,” said Luke Gregory, Chief Executive Officer of Children’s Hospital.
In a joint statement, the Dugas and Turner families said: “In addition to enhancing healthcare for school children in Allen County, our hope is that this collaboration will lead to others with rural communities throughout the region. Making this even more special to us is that our dear friend and Scottsville native Gwen Bond was married to Jim Bond, whom we knew since high school, and who worked for more than 40 years for Monroe Carell at Central Parking.”
– by John Howser