With the new school year in full swing, we are reminded of the importance of providing asthma education for those students with asthma. For the last several years, in partnership with the Pioneer Valley Asthma Coalition, the American Lung Association of the Northeast has provided the Open Airways for Schools program to elementary schools in the Greater Springfield area. Open Airways for Schools is an asthma education program designed to teach asthma self- management skills and empower children ages 8-11 years who have asthma. Although the programs are held during the Winter and Spring months, planning begins in the Fall as children head back to school. The support of the school nurse leader and school nurses has been crucial to the success of these programs.
As many as 8-10 Open Airways programs are held simultaneously at local elementary schools through a collaboration with the UM and Elms College Nursing Departments. Senior nursing students who are interested in learning more about asthma and enjoy working with children, can select this placement to fulfill their community education requirement. Nursing students receive training at the American Lung Association and from Baystate Medical Center’s Pulmonary Rehab program staff. They begin their programs mid-February, meeting once a week for six weeks and conclude in April. Open Airways is interactive and fun and allows students opportunities for discussion and role play in a small group setting. While there have been challenges such as scheduling and space limitations and the new fingerprinting requirements, the benefits far outweigh the challenges.