There are probably a number of reasons why conferences at times have no conference nurses. Finances enter into the problem. During the depression, some conferences considered the health work a "frill" which could be dispensed with. Inasmuch as the salary of a conference nurse is usually not comparable to that of nurses holding executive positions in our medical institutions, many nurses may not be attracted to the work. Some of our leaders have not been wholly convinced of the need of well-qualified persons to lead out in health education. At times this attitude has resulted in a vicious circle.
Nurses have felt that there would be no positions open if they did qualify, and thus were not ready to step into opportunities which did occur. The result was that nurses with no special preparation for their task have tried to fill the position of conference nurse, and have not impressed their associates in the conference office with their competence. Such situations have been unfair, both to the nursing profession and to the conference program. In still other instances, nurses have been "sidetracked" from the general health program of the conference into some one line of activity which has absorbed their entire time, and has thus robbed their field of the services of a nurse.
The nurse, when employed by a conference, will not be able to give her entire time to the school health program upon which I wish to center my attention in this paper. She should study carefully the pamphlet, "Setting to Work as a Conference Nurse," by the General Conference Medical Department, noting especially those duties which are routine, and those which are to receive attention as time permits, or as she may be requested by her conference committee. After a tentative schedule of her various activities has been approved, it would be well to post it in her office and proceed to follow it as closely as possible. Sometime in the summer should be set aside for camp meetings and Junior camps. Provision should be made for brief cooking schools or schools of health among the churches during the late fall and early spring. Definite plans must be laid in order to assure adequate health service in the secondary schools of the conference.
In choosing a nurse, one should give careful thought to her qualifications. A copy of the "Minimum Qualifications for those Appointed to Positions in Public Health Nursing" prepared by the National Organization for Public Health Nursing, follows. A conference nurse, because she is working alone, would fall under their B qualifications. In addition to high-school graduation and an adequate nurses' course, the nurse should have, if possible, special preparation in public-health nursing, with actual field experience.
Since a conference nurse must act as health adviser to teachers, she should have courses in education and psychology. The closer her academic preparation approximates that of the teachers with whom she is working, the happier the relationship will probably be. The Joint Committee on Health Problems in Education of the National Education Association and the American Medical Association states : "Throughout this report, the nurse is mentioned as a consultant to the teacher, and as a health supervisor. If she is thought of in this light it becomes obvious that her preparation should approximate that of a specialized supervisor."—"The Nurse in the School," p. 6.
After the nurse has accepted her position, her preparation should continue. The same committee writes : "Once the nurse is appointed to a school position, she should strengthen her preparation both in health and in education, in the same way that teachers are expected to keep up to date in their selected fields. Nurses should therefore not be selected for school positions who are not making definite plans to extend their education through continuous preparation."—Ibid.
The conference president, the educational secretary, and the medical secretary can share in the responsibility of furthering the preparation of the nurse. Though the following statement was written for the administrator who has a full-time school nurse in his institution, the same should apply to the nurse concerned with health education in her conference:
"The administrator should arrange for the nurse to attend professional meetings of nursing groups as well as of educational groups. He should encourage in-service education, such as courses, institutes, and meetings, and should direct her attention to educational materials which relate to health or the desirable educational aims and methods of the school."—Id., P. 5.
"Minimum Qualifications for Those Appointed to Positions in Public Health Nursing (Reprinted from Public Health Nursing, March, 1936.)
"A. For the nurse working on the staff of an official or private agency under a nurse supervisor, who meets the qualifications set forth in II, A. Duties : To carry on the direct nursing service of the agency in the home, clinic, or conference.
1. General Education—High-school graduation or its educational equivalent as determined by State department of education. More advanced education on a college level is desirable.
2. Professional Preparation.
3. Fundamental nursing education. The following are essential:
(I) Graduation from an accredited school of nursing connected with a hospital having a daily average of icro patients, or a minimum of 50 patients with one or more affiliations affording supplementary preparation.
(2) Basic preparation in the care of men, women, and children, together with a carefully guided program of theory and practice in medical, surgical, obstetrical, and pediatric nursing.
(3) Basic emphasis throughout the curriculum and in all services on the mental aspects of nursing.
(4) Instruction and experience in the acute communicable diseases as well as in tuberculosis, syphilis, and gonorrhea.
If this basic preparation is not available in the school of nursing, it should be secured through affiliation before graduation or through postgraduate work.
Instruction and experience are desirable in the following:
Family health work through affiliation with a public-health nursing service with a nurse supervisor who meets the qualifications set forth in II, A.
3. State Registration.
4. Personal Qualifications.
The following personal qualifications are of the utmost importance for a public health nurse: An interest in and ability to work with people ; good physical health and emotional stability; initiative ; good judgment; resourcefulness.
"B. For the nurse in an official or private agency working alone or without guidance of a supervisor qualified according to II, A. Duties: In addition to carrying on the direct nursing service of the agency as in A, the following activities may be included: To organize the nursing service; to work with lay and professional groups; to carry on the activities in such special services as school nursing and industrial nursing.
1. General Education—same as A.
2. Professional Preparation.
3. Fundamental nursing education—same as A.
4. Professional preparation—special preparation in public health nursing.
(I) A program of study in public-health nursing meeting the National Organization of Public Health Nursing requirements and covering at least one academic year.
(2) At least one year's experience under qualified nursing supervision in a public-health nursing service in which family health is emphasized.
5. State Registration.
6. Personal Qualifications.
In addition to the qualifications mentioned under A, the public-health nurse working alone needs to have ability in organizing the nursing service in a community, and a special aptitude for working with lay and professional groups."
*Excerpts from article in Journal of the American Dietetic Association, June, 1942, pp. 386-388. Reprinted by permission.