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School Nurses Help Manage Asthma in Children

A group of young children raising their hands in a classroom setting
“Schools are where children spend the majority of their day. School nursing provides an essential bridge between healthcare, school and home.” - Michele Wilmoth, MSN, RN, LSN, NCSN

Communities are faced with a multitude of health problems that are not always addressed by the traditional healthcare system. As one of the closest links between healthcare and communities’ youth, school health nurses are in the perfect position to identify and minimize health issues by improving health practices within schools. The Johnson & Johnson School Health Leadership Program (JJSHLP) aims to empower school nurses to become leaders within their community and improve student health practices.

“Schools are where children spend the majority of their day,” said Michele Wilmoth, MSN, RN, LSN, NCSN, director of school health services at Akron Children’s Hospital in Akron, Ohio, and a Fellow of the JJSHLP. “If you want to impact child health and wellness, you must think of schools.  School nursing provides that essential bridge between healthcare, school and home. I believe school nurses have a responsibility and influence to effect change in their communities.”

Established in 1988, the JJSHLP program connects school nurses and administrative community partners through an 18-month fellowship program in which these school health teams identify a prominent community health issue, attain grants and work to help the community combat health issues.

“The JJSHLP fellowship brings the value of school nurses to the forefront, along with other local health leaders, for the improvement of health for students, faculty, families and communities,” said Sheila Caldwell, BSN, RN, CSN-NJ, marketing/outreach coordinator for JJSHLP.  

Since Wilmoth and her team began the program in 2014, they have continued to work to improve asthma management in schools around Akron, thereby decreasing overutilization of acute medical services such as emergency room visits and/or hospitalizations for asthma management.

As part of her research with JJSHLP, Wilmoth and her team of four other school nurses and Akron Children’s Hospital identified that asthma was a health issue in her community. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), asthma is the leading chronic illness among children and adolescents in the United States. Asthma affects 7.1 million children under the age of 18, is the third leading cause of hospitalizations in children under 15, and is one of the leading causes of school absenteeism. The Ohio Department of Health and Vital Statistics reports that Ohio has 155 deaths from asthma each year.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to work with our youth to improve asthma management through our service in the schools. Approximately 4-5 children in every classroom of 30 students have asthma,” said Wilmoth.

Given the prevalence of asthma in children, Wilmoth and her team focused on developing methods to improve asthma management in schools through policy updates and education improvements. Wilmoth’s asthma management project lasted well after the conclusion of the 18-month JJSHP Program and has seen success thus far. According to Wilmoth, her team:

  • Improved the process for communication between health care provider and school on shared patients/students with asthma by standardizing school forms available within the organization’s electronic medical record (EMR). The fillable forms streamline the process for providers when a patient is discharged, the home asthma treatment plan will populate a school asthma treatment plan. 
  • Implemented a strategy for community/policy change for improving asthma management by helping to pass legislation in support of stock rescue inhaler availability in Ohio schools for students who forget to bring their inhalers to school. This legislation is a win for the team because previously the absence of rescue inhalers, action plans, and incorrect use/misuse of asthma medications resulted in 20 emergency medical service (EMS) calls during the 2014-2015 school year.
  • Restructured education and training related to asthma management by standardizing education of nursing staff caring for students with asthma in the schools. The educational nursing programs implemented by the team in the schools aim to increase knowledge and understanding about asthma for students and caregivers in the school community.


With these fundamental changes, Wilmoth and her team hoped to reduce asthma related hospitalization and mortality in schoolchildren, positively impacting the entire Akron community.

“Our project changed from what we originally planned. We wanted to make an immediate impact for our students with asthma. What we ended up with was better; we made enduring changes for our students and in our community,” said Wilmoth.

A group of 5 woman with their arms around each other smiling at the camera

Team members of the Akron Children’s Hospital asthma management program: Laurel Celik BSN, RN, NCSN; Heather Edwards BSN, RN, LSN, NCSN; Michele Wilmoth, MSN, RN, LSN, NCSN; Stacey Dailey BSN, RN; Mary Schatz MSN, RN, LSN




Learn more about The Johnson & Johnson School Health Leadership Program

The Johnson & Johnson School Health Leadership Program is a highly-competitive fellowship program designed by Rutgers, Center of Alcohol Studies in collaboration with Johnson & Johnson. This nationally recognized fellowship program includes curriculum and opportunities designed to support school nurses and their community/administrative partners to become leaders within their community’s educational and health services teams to improve student health practices. All education offered in this program is in partnership with the National Association of School Nurses

For eligibility requirements and more information about The Johnson & Johnson School Health Leadership Program, visit Applications for the 2017 cohort will be accepted in late 2016, and teams will be notified of acceptance in January 2017.

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