What's my job... School nurse

Two years ago, Eltham Green specialist sports college became a full-service extended school. The extra funding allowed me time to look at different ways of working within the college, its main feeder primary school and the wider community.

The proactive side of my work mainly involves linking into the personal, social and health education curriculum and the healthy schools programme to encourage young people to make healthy lifestyle choices.

Being in Eltham Green enables me to work closely with the teachers to devise a programme for the whole school.

A lot of this work is to do with sex and relationships education. I focus on issues such as contraception and sexually transmitted infections, and I talk to the young people about what happens at a reproductive and sexual health clinic.

Every week, I attend a multi-agency meeting to discuss students who are causing concern. As a consequence, I may do some health screening (looking at a child's vision, height or weight, for example), chase up hospital referrals or, more often, visit young people's families with a social worker to offer any support they may need.

Medical reasons are often given for poor attendance, and these need to be investigated. A typical case involved a girl who was missing school because she was sick every time she set out.

A social worker and I visited the family and approached the problem from the perspective of our different disciplines. Anxiety appeared to be at the root of the child's difficulties and we referred her to a counsellor.

Later, we explored with teachers how she might gently be reintroduced back into school.

Sometimes there are child protection issues. Recently, a child whose attendance was poor because of recurrent asthma and hospital admissions with pneumonia was found to be living in poor housing conditions and we were able to help the family to get the improvements the house needed.

I provide confidential drop-in health advice services to young people - both in school and one evening a week at a community centre - as well as offering drop-in health advice for parents with a health visitor every half term. I also run a childcare course for secondary school students.

Julie Unitt is a school nurse with the Greenwich Teaching Primary Care Trust. She was talking to Carolyn O'Grady

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