It’s not easy being a teenager, especially these days. An extra smile, a word of encouragement and a safe place to check in can help when high school hallways seem overwhelming.
Because of ChristianaCare’s School-Based Health Center team, students at Glasgow High School have that place. Students can get comprehensive medical and mental health services right at school — health checks for students who are not feeling well; health and nutrition education; pre-employment and sports physicals; individual, family and group counseling.
The team removes obstacles to healthy living and preserves confidentiality in caring for students. During more than 1,000 visits in the last academic year, more than 50% were for mental health care as students re-acclimated to school after COVID-19 lockdowns.
Susan Newswanger, APRN, CNP, Nurse Practitioner and Coordinator
Mom of Four, ChristianaCare Career Started at Medical Center of Delaware
Laura Burritt, LPCMH Mental Health Provider
Mom of Two Boys, Avid Hiker
Susan Newswanger, APRN, CNP, coordinator of the Glasgow School-Based Health Center, talks about the team’s special role in the school community.
“The convenience of having us in the school takes down some of the barriers. We are familiar faces. We see them in the hallways, in the cafeteria and visit their classrooms. It’s nice for kids to be able to schedule during school and come in to see us the next day.
Our goal is not to be their family doctor, but to help make that connection with an outside provider. It can be hard because maybe their parents can’t get them to an appointment, or maybe they have no insurance. We’re really filling in a lot of gaps here. I’ve done over 200 vaccines this year, not all for COVID, but we offer that, too.
In-school health care
All students at the school can use the health center, but they have to register as members. About half are members. A parent has to give consent that their child can receive our services, but after that, the majority of services are confidential. Some kids like that part of it. They may not feel comfortable asking their parents about birth control or therapy.
Part of it is that kids don’t necessarily know what they need. So, they come to us.
Heather Dusseau, Registered Dietitian
Marathoner x 20, Wife of Stroke Survivor
Sheena Marshall, Community Educator
Active Listener, People Person
Kristen Smith, Administrative Assistant
Pinterest Scroller, Bookworm
We also do senior wellness checks. Any senior that we see, we check with our team to see if they need anything as they’re graduating. Our social worker Laura might talk to them about insurance or plans after school. Our dietitian Heather can discuss nutrition or any stressors they’re going through, and I can address any medical needs that they might have. We ask them: “What are your plans? Do you have a doctor now that you’re graduating? How can we help you?”
We are learning too
We try and become part of the school community as much as we can. We go into some of the classrooms, especially the health classrooms, and do presentations on topics like mental health. Heather does a presentation on nutrition.
Our community educator Sheena helps students with referrals outside of school. She can help with medical assistance, accessing food, even teaching students how to cook at home. It really is about meeting kids where they are.
I think you’re drawn to this job. And then you stay because it fits. I love working with teens. I love the education piece of it. I love talking to them one on one. They’re great. You have to be comfortable talking to them. You don’t necessarily use their lingo, but you have to be comfortable being around them.
If I don’t know how to ask them a question, I’ll say it. When they tell me the answer, I say: “How could I have asked you that better? Because I’m learning, too.”
ChristianaCare operates 21 school-based health centers at high school and elementary schools in New Castle County, Delaware, through a partnership with local school districts, the Delaware Division of Public Health and the state Department of Health and Social Services.