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LP-A, M State join forces in health

Starting this fall, Lake Park-Audubon Public Schools and Minnesota State Community & Technical College (M State) in Detroit Lakes will join forces on a unique program that will benefit students at both schools.

Nursing students at M State will have the opportunity to earn clinical experience toward their RN and LPN degrees -- by conducting vision, hearing and scoliosis screenings, and providing health education services for high school and elementary students at LP-A.

LP-A counselor Jenny Heggestuen and M State nursing faculty member Cindy Moore presented the specifics of the program to LP-A School Board members at their monthly meeting Monday night in Audubon.

Traditionally, services such as health education, hearing and vision screenings, etc., would be performed by a school nurse. However, as Heggestuen explained after the presentation, LP-A is not a large enough district to be able to employ the services of a full-time nurse.

For several years many of these nursing services have been provided, at no cost to the district, by Becker County Community Health.

However, as Heggestuen explained at the meeting, due to increased workload and decreased funding available, BCCH staff could no longer continue providing those services free of charge, and the cost to continue providing those services was more than the district was willing to pay.

So Heggestuen began looking into other options, and contacted M State "to see if they would have any interest in doing it."

The answer to that question was yes. Heggestuen got in touch with Moore, and the partnership grew from there.

For the first year of the partnership, Moore said, they decided to focus on RN (registered nurse) students who were nearing graduation. Eventually, she added, the program may be expanded to include LPN students as well.

For this year, however, Moore said she has about 40 RN students who will be graduating in December that can provide the necessary education and screening services.

"This is a huge plus for us," Moore said, noting that part of the requirements for an RN degree is that the students have some sort of clinical experience, working with a variety of ages.

Superintendent Dale Hogie asked Moore if the students who would be working at the school would undergo any kind of background check beforehand.

Moore noted that background checks are a requirement for entering the nursing program at M State.

"I'm very excited about having this program in our schools," Heggestuen said after the meeting. "It's a positive thing for both parties."

Two main focuses of the program for the coming year, she added, will be on puberty education classes for students in grades 4-6, and vision, hearing and general health screenings for both elementary and high school students.

"Students' learning issues can often be due to medical issues," Heggestuen pointed out, adding that she's excited to be able to offer the screenings to high school as well as elementary students this year.

"We're really lucky to have made that contact (with M State), and they seem excited about it as well," she added.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454