Practicing School-Based Health Care

 Primary Care Matters is a guest column written for MedStat by a local pediatrician or primary care provider.

(From the August 2019 Issue of MedStat

Sara Bode, MD, is a primary care pediatrician and the medical director of Nationwide Children's Hospital's Care Connection School-Based Health and Mobile Clinics. She is also the co-director of the Pediatric Residency Advocacy Training at Nationwide Children's Hospital. She serves on the Executive Committee for the AAP Council on School Health and is also the Deputy Editor for AAP’s Pediatric Care Online. Her clinical work and research centers around the intersection of health and education and providing care for the underserved. She is committed to training new pediatric physicians how to advocate in the field of pediatrics through policy and community action and serves as a National Coach for the AAP’s Community Pediatrics Training Initiative to help improve advocacy training for faculty and pediatric residents around the country.

 Bode Family Picture

Heading into late summer/early fall means back to school preparation for me for both my own kids and my patients. As a school health physician I am excited to get back to my school clinic to see ‘my kids’. From attending back to school events, to high fives when the kids get off the bus, to catching up with parents and students on their health needs, it is a busy time!   

Working in a school clinic gives me the opportunity to become an integral member of the school community. I spend time providing direct patient care but also as a part of the broader school community. By collaborating with teachers, administration, social work, counselors, and school nursing we promote the health of all students in the school through monthly meetings, identifying each individual school’s needs. This can include leading educational programs for the students such as Prom Promise, Dine and Dish, and even Jeopardy games around teen health. We also provide school staff educational topics around a variety of child health issues such as sports participation, ADHD diagnosis and treatment, and more.

Most of all, the relationships I build with the students are some of the most rewarding experiences for me. Being there every week allows me to put into practice the concept of the ‘whole child’ including all aspects of their health and well-being, from medical, social, academic, and community needs. Many of my patients have never established with a medical home or developed continuity with a physician. At our School Based Health Center we can work to link families to an area medical home for ongoing continuity of care, working with the family to educate them on the importance of preventive medicine. We can also help care for acutely sick children in school with communication and linkage back to their medical home. Being able to see them regularly, invest in their well-being, and watch them grow in their understanding and ownership of their own health is a privilege that I am thankful for each and every school year. 

The Nationwide Children's Hospital School Based Health Centers are a vital resource for families in the community. It’s about being a part of the wellness team for the school and helping to ensure every child that attends has equal access and opportunity to get the care they need when they need it. It allows families to break down barriers (lack of transportation, unstable housing, single working parent households, etc.)  that can limit a parent’s ability to get their child to needed appointments. By locating our clinic inside the school with full access to well care, sick visits, chronic disease management, shots, medications, and laboratory testing we can provide comprehensive medical care and keep kids where they are- in school learning and thriving.