For IES, student health is of the highest priority and integrated into all parts of school activities. But how does it work, and how can the health staff provide students with the best conditions concerning their mental and physical well-being?
To find the answer, we asked Helena Lüning, head of operations, for student health at IES. Originally a pediatrician and child psychiatrist, Helena Lüning constantly strives to be there for the students, and when asked about her job, describes it as the best in the world.
Interviewer: What exactly is student health?
Helena Lüning: “The function of student health is to create ideal conditions at school for students to receive an exemplary education and a positive outlook. Student health should not be seen as a separate issue but as an integral part of the school. The importance requires everyone who works at the school to take part in the matter. That includes those who work daily with student health and the students' role models - all of who play an integral role in the school environment.”
Helena Lüning said: Since the students' mental health is linked to their social environment, we adults in the schools have a great responsibility to create a safe and healthy space for them - another piece of the puzzle for the school to function properly. Our presence also lets us catch issues early on that the children might have. It allows us to understand elements that do not work, make adjustments. Based on that, we can ensure that measures and resources are in place.
Helena Lüning said: “It is important that students feel seen and safe, both inside and outside the school. For us, it is critical to be present in everyday activities. Student health work operates best with collaboration, acting as a bridge between students, parents, and teachers. Our staff is always working to be present. As a school nurse or curator, you don't just sit in your room, you constantly move among the children throughout the day - in the dining room, the corridors, and during breaks. This allows you to get to know them better, and get a greater understanding and an insight into their reality.”
“We at IES work to promote health and prevention, and we attach great importance to knowing all the children in the schools. In this way, we can determine when something is wrong with a student and respond as quickly as possible. Everyone in the student health team has a strict duty of confidentiality, and it is important that you feel confident that what you say stays private.”
In addition to the daily vision, a long-term outlook is needed. The goal is to constantly improve and follow up on best practices - big and small.
“Every year, our school nurses conduct health conversations with students in primary and secondary school. These conversations are voluntary and are based on a questionnaire students take concerning health and lifestyle issues. The questionnaire takes place in preschool, grades 4, 7, 8, and the first year of high school. The questions include sleep, diet, physical activity, well-being, and topics such as friends and relationships. We believe that no problem is too small. The health talks allow us to strengthen the students' well-being and discover early on if any need special assistance. Since some find it easier than others to share, this creates a more inclusive space for thoughts and reflections.”
Helena Lüning pointed out how the interaction between parents, teachers, and children plays a role in the child's success. Therefore, it is important that parents feel confident in having an open dialogue with the school.
Helena Lüning said: “If you as a parent have thoughts or worries about your child's health, you should first turn to the student's mentor since the mentor knows the child best. This allows the student health team to be present and involved when needed. Of course, you can also contact the school nurse or curator directly.”