School nurses in Northern Ireland will now be accessible through a new messaging service that aims to provide children and young people with a “safe way” to reach out for advice and support.
The ‘text-a-nurse’ initiative hopes to enable 11 to 19-year-olds in the country to reach out to school nursing teams in a way that they may feel more comfortable doing or “less embarrassing” than alternatives.
“We hope through this text service young people will be empowered to ask those questions that they otherwise wouldn’t”
The scheme will be manned by a team of school nurses between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday, excluding bank holidays, who will offer support for a range of emotional and general health support.
Once a young person has sent a text to the appropriate number, a school nurse will then respond using the secure ChatHealth web platform within 24 hours.
Those behind the service aim to provide children and young people with timely and convenient access to confidential health advice, especially during the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic.
Emily Roberts, safeguarding nurse consultant at Northern Ireland’s Public Health Agency, said: “Asking for help or advice via text message is less embarrassing than asking in person.
“We hope through this non-judgemental, confidential text service young people will be empowered to ask those questions that they otherwise wouldn’t have the confidence to ask.”
Meanwhile, the country’s health minister, Robin Swann, said: “School nurses play a key role in working across education and health, and providing a link between school, home and the community.
“Their aim is to improve the health and wellbeing of children and young people, and during these uncertain times text-a-nurse provides a safe way for young people to reach out for help and to discuss their concerns.
“This service offers a way for young people to anonymously access health related advice, information and guidance at the touch of a button from a specially trained nurse.”
The initiative is one of a range of resources to support the implementation of Northern Ireland’s Framework for Children and Young People’s Emotional Health and Wellbeing in Education.
Also welcoming the new initiative, education minister Peter Weir said: “The emotional health and wellbeing of children and young people has never been more important.
“This new service will allow young people to seek advice about sensitive health issues without a face-to-face appointment,” he said.
“School nurses will provide help on a range of issues including, emotional health and wellbeing, alcohol and drugs, sexual health, bullying and general health issues.”
He stressed that, at a time when many young people had been out of education because of the coronavirus pandemic, it was “more important than ever that they know they can talk to someone confidentially about their concerns”.
— to www.nursingtimes.net