Wellbeing nurses give students a new pathway to care

Five Central Coast schools are among the first in NSW to welcome a highly trained School Wellbeing Nurse, thanks to a first-of-its-kind NSW Government initiative.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast, Adam Crouch, said the role involves providing students with mental health support while also attending to day-to-day medical issues.

“Each School Wellbeing Nurse is a university-qualified health professional who has completed two months of mental health training at the Central Coast Local Health District.

“This new position will add to the existing supports and structures available in every public school.

“The role has been created to reduce the stigma surrounding school counsellors, offering students an alternative pathway to access mental health and wellbeing support without feeling judged by their peers,” Crouch said.

Minister for Mental Health, Bronnie Taylor, said the new nurses are part of the four-year expansion of a successful pilot program.

“Our children and young people can feel like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders as they try to make sense of unpredictable, changing world and their place in it,” Taylor said.

“School Wellbeing Nurses are another important part of the web of support we’re putting in place to make sure we can deliver the right healthcare, at the right place and at the right time,” she said.

An independent evaluation of the pilot program found that School Wellbeing Nurses were successful at supporting students and families to achieve positive health and education outcomes and linking school and community health and wellbeing interventions.

The five schools to benefit from School Wellbeing Nurses are Gosford High School, Narara Valley High School, Point Clare Public School, Valley View Public School and Wyoming Public School.

They were selected based on need.

Central Coast Council of P&Cs spokesperson, Sharryn Brownlee, said the nurses will triage students to direct them to counsellors, doctors and other specialists.

“This is a fantastic way to reduce the strain on counsellors,” Brownlee said.

“It’s a starting point and we need more of these nurses for schools across the Coast,” she said.

“We’re hoping to have a wider roll out in term four, especially across the northern suburbs.

“This is also about dealing with the stigma attached to mental health and seeing a counsellor, it’s easier on the students and their families as it’s like seeing any other nurse and it removes that fear around mental health.

“Lots of schools already have wellbeing teachers, and these nurses take that one step further by being able to guide students to the right services.”

Brownlee also commented on the need to get more teachers on the Coast vaccinated to allow students to get back into the classroom sooner saying that homeschooling is only a temporary solution.

“The wellbeing of students and their parents and carers is so important, and homeschooling isn’t helping.

“There are parents out there who are having to take time off work to help teach their kids and there are kindy students that don’t have a connection to their school because they’re just not there.

“If we can get more teachers vaccinated then we can get students back in the classroom and in a better environment to learn,” Brownlee said.

Harry Mulholland