Background: Eating disorders are serious conditions and have the highest mortality rate of all psychiatric disorders. They most often manifest in adolescence. The severity of the health impact, typical age of onset, and challenges related to treatment, all demonstrate a need to focus on early intervention. School nurses have access and ability to monitor student well-being, and this can include eating disorders. This study assessed school nurses to measure current perceptions and practices regarding students with eating disorders.
Methods: An email survey was sent to a random sample of 3,001 members of the National Association of School Nurses (NASN). The survey used was created from a comprehensive review of the literature and was based on Precaution Adoption Process Model and 5 “A”s of intervention. The survey was reviewed by experts in the field and was tested for psychometrics using stability, reliability and Cronbach alpha.
Results: Data collection began January 2016 and 33.6% response rate was achieved. Findings indicated school nurses are not engaging in assessing and assisting students with eating disorders, mostly due to lack of self-efficacy related to eating disorder assessing and minimal education on the subject.
Discussion: Eating disorders are serious health conditions that affect school aged youth. Early diagnosis and treatment are associated with improved treatment outcomes. School nurses monitor and screen school children for a variety of health issues. School nurses could help identify and provide resources for students with these disorders.
Key words: school nurses, eating disorders, PAPM, 5 A’s Approach, adolescent health
Target Audiences: School nurses, school dietitians, school counselors, professionals working with eating disorders