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At Maine schools soon, the nurse might be ON even if they are not “in.” Communities in the state have been struggling with staffing and workload pressures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the nationwide school nursing shortage, so the Maine Departments of Education and Health and Human Services are partnering with Avel eCare to deliver telehealth nursing services to increase access to nursing services in the state’s public school system.

To fund the initiative, the state is using a portion of its COVID-19 federal relief funding to pilot a program with Avel eCare. The eCare School Health program (which has been an Avel service line since 2015) delivers school nurse services virtually via a secure, two-way video mobile unit and is being offered at no cost to schools.

“Our school nurses have been on the frontlines throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, caring for students and providing critical support to keep students, staff and schools safe. They are absolute heroes,” said Education Commissioner Pender Makin. “We also know they are exhausted and stretched so thin and that many schools have not been able to find the experienced school nurse staff they need. This partnership with Avel eCare, made possible with federal funds, offers additional nursing support to help fill shortages in our schools and expand the care we provide to our students.”

“We’re pleased to partner on this important effort to provide telehealth school nursing services to Maine schools as part of strengthening Maine’s school-based health programs,” said Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “This model bridges gaps in school nursing coverage, helps schools maintain safe and healthy environments, and reduces barriers to learning by providing effective preventive care. School nurses have been invaluable during the COVID-19 pandemic and are a trusted resource for their students, school staffs, and communities.”

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According to a recent U.S. CDC report, school nurses help students improve their academic outcomes and can also make a significant impact on the broader community. For example, every dollar invested into school nursing program results in society saving $2.20 because of a reduction in emergency room visits and parents taking time off of work to care for their sick children.

“Even before the pandemic, the lives of school nurses were busy. Now, their jobs have expanded to include public health, and that work is too simply too big to do alone. We’re thankful to have the support of Avel eCare to help our nurse provide the daily health services that our children need,” said Tara McKechnie, Principal at Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School in Maine, which was among the first schools to implement the virtual school nurse program.

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