Hawaii Governor Josh Green Issues Proclamation Celebrating School Nurses

Hawaii Governor Josh Green has issued a proclamation recognizing National School Nurse Day on May 8, 2024. In a ceremony on Friday, May 10, 2024, Gov. Green presented the proclamation to the Hawaii Keiki: Healthy & Ready to Learn Program, UH Manoa Nancy Atmospera-Walch School of Nursing, the Hawaii Department of Education (HIDOE) and the Hawaii Department of Health’s Public Health Nursing Branch. Hawaii Keiki is the largest school nursing program in the state of Hawaii, with more than 50 school nurses in public schools.

Nurses from Hawaii Keiki and dept of health gather with Governor Josh Green

School nurses are licensed Registered Nurses and Nurse Practitioners who work in health clinics located on school campuses and provide no-cost health services to students. Many times a school nurse is the only licensed healthcare professional on campus and often serves a critical role in providing access to healthcare for rural or high-need communities. For students with no health insurance or with limited access to a healthcare facility, a school nurse may be the first and only healthcare professional they will see. The proclamation recognizes the fundamental role school nurses play in increasing healthcare equity for Hawaii public school students as well as improving both health and learning outcomes, so they can embark on a lifelong path of wellness.

Hawaii keiki nurse checks student's heart

“Hawaii Keiki nurses are truly making a difference in the lives of our students,” said Deborah Mattheus, senior practice director for Hawaii Keiki. “Our nurses are literally saving lives. They respond to urgent healthcare emergencies, connect students to medical homes and critical support services, and provide health education to the entire school community. They are invested in the physical, emotional and psychological health and wellbeing of their students. I am so proud of all of our nurses and the entire Hawaii Keiki team for the amazing care and aloha they devote to their work. This National School Nurses Day is also very special for our program because we will be celebrating 10 years of our program this upcoming fall.”

In 2014, Hawaii Keiki started with four nurses at Title I schools on Oahu, Hawaii Island and Kauai. In recognition of the benefit and impact of having nurses on school campuses, the program quickly expanded to 15 Nurse Practitioners, one in each HIDOE complex area. During the pandemic, in 2020, Hawaii Keiki was called upon to help with providing much needed health resources and COVID-19 testing in schools in collaboration with HIDOE, the Hawaii State Department of Health’s Public Health Nursing Branch, local partnerships with Federally Qualified Health Centers, Primary Care Providers, and other community partners.

Hawaii keiki nurses with emergency bags

During this health crisis, Hawaii Keiki launched an innovative health hotline and telehealth services, as a way to provide continued health coverage as students transitioned to remote learning. Due to its success during the pandemic, virtual telehealth visits became a part of the Hawaii Keiki’s core services, expanding the reach to more students in rural areas.

The pandemic highlighted the importance of school nurses. In 2020-2022, the Hawaii Keiki program expanded to employ more than 55 Nurse Practitioners and Registered Nurses who serve HIDOE school keiki across the state. As a result, student visits to a Hawaii Keiki clinic increased from 8,188 to 126,994 visits (up 1,451%) from the school year 2019-2020 to the school year 2022-2023. Of the these visits, 75% of these students returned to class instead of being sent home. Additionally, in 2022, Hawaii Keiki began offering on-site and telehealth nursing services to select public charter schools.

Hawaii keiki team

National School Nurses Day highlights the unique contribution of school nurses and how students, families and the larger community in Hawaii can benefit from having easier access to equitable healthcare. It is a testament to the tremendous impact school nurses have on Hawaii communities and why the need for more school nurses is pertinent for a healthier future.

Back To Top