Equipping Nurses to Better Manage Mental Health Issues in Florida Schools
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to develop and test an educational toolkit to increase the confidence levels of school health nurses in Florida in assessing for and identifying mental health issues. A secondary purpose is to assess and describe associated perceived barriers.
Methods: This study utilized a quasi-experimental design. A paired sample t-test was done to compare the pretest and posttest results. The study also had a quality improvement component. Questions were included in the tests to identify perceived barriers of addressing mental health in schools and level of school nurse involvement with school district mental health plans.
Results: Results indicated that there was only a 5% increase in knowledge regarding monitoring recommendations for students with diagnosed mental health conditions. This increase is not significant enough to support our hypothesis that an educational intervention can increase nurses’ confidence in knowledge and address mental health issues in school age children.
Discussion: There are several possible reasons which may have had an impact on why there was not a notable increase in the pre and posttest surveys. The pretest survey asked very basic, opinion-based questions to determine nurses’ current knowledge and confidence level regarding mental health. The questions were solely asking nurses how confident they felt about several management strategies surrounding mental health including therapeutic management and addressing situations that may arise. Nurses were not asked specific questions that would test their knowledge and therefore show non opinion-based answers and reflect more accurate pre and posttest results. In the future, specific test questions should be developed to provide adequate pre and posttest determination of the usefulness of a mental health educational intervention tool for increasing nurses’ confidence in addressing mental health issues in school age children. It is beneficial to ask how nurses feel when addressing these issues within their schools and 97% of participants stated they were willing to participate in further mental health trainings. It is also important to note that 70% did not feel they were involved in their school districts’ development of mental health policies and procedures.
Conclusions: While the testing did not show a significant increase in knowledge, this study did reveal nurses’ perceptions related to their involvement and barriers they face when addressing mental health issues within schools and those are important things for the Florida Department of Education and Florida Department of Health to consider when working together to improve the delivery of services to school age children in Florida.
Major Professor: Laurie Abbot, PhD, RN, PHNA-BC