Susan Felicia, MSN, APRN, FNP-C, and Oona Campanelli, MSN, APRN, FNP-C, are nurse practitioners working in ChristianaCare’s School-Based Health Centers (SBHCs). The SBHCs operate throughout New Castle County, Delaware, in partnership with school districts and the Delaware Division of Public Health, Department of Health and Social Services. 

Susan is a second career nurse with over 16 years nursing experience in advanced heart failure, cardiovascular care, education, mechanical circulatory support and advanced practice. For the past three years she has worked in the SBHC at Alexis I. DuPont High School providing comprehensive health maintenance, education and services to adolescents.

Susan has enjoyed her transition from the hospital setting to a SBHC because “I get to focus on prevention of disease instead of treating it after it has occurred.” Susan is empathetic to the fact that not every adolescent has a traditional, nuclear family and the person in her care may need the basic skills of how to access and interpret health resources to gain independence in their health management. “It was quite eye-opening to see where adolescents are actually at in their lives and health knowledge” she said. “It was much different than what I expected.”

Susan stated, “as a nurse you just want to make a difference in someone’s day and we really have the chance to do that in the wellness centers.”

Oona Campanelli is a lifelong nurse and tenured caregiver at ChristianaCare. Oona’s hospital experience includes over a decade in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. She completed her advanced nursing degree in 2014 and immediately took employment in the SBHC at Conrad Schools of Science in Wilmington, Delaware.

“In our role, there is a huge focus on teaching and health education,” Oona said. “As health care providers, we must adjust our teaching skills to meet the needs of adolescents. Often that includes learning the latest lingo and serving as their mentor and coach. Not every adolescent has the support they need at home and so they rely on us to help make them successful adults.”

The Perfect Partnership: The School-Based Health Center and the Primary Care Provider

When discussing SBHC, it is important to note the connectivity and differences among other health care providers in an adolescent’s life. The SBHC does not replace a Primary Care Provider (PCP); each adolescent should still maintain an ongoing relationship with a PCP.

The Nurse Practitioner working in a SBHC is performing top of license practice for their students. Services typically include physical exams, sick visits, health screenings, reproductive health care, immunizations, nutrition and weight management, counseling, tobacco cessation counseling and other wellness efforts. The goal of the SBHC Nurse Practitioner is to keep the student in school, focused on learning and managing any illness or health needs simultaneously.

“I want to be there for the students,” Oona said. “We partner with social workers and dieticians to meet the holistic needs of our youth.

I feel lucky to work in a SBHC because I have more time with my patients. A typical PCP office visit may only be 10-15 minutes but in the SBHC we can take up to an hour with our students. We are really able to form great relationships with the students.”

The added benefits for students in having a SBHC in their school is the relationship between the school nurse and Nurse Practitioner in the SBHC. The Nurse Practitioner has greater autonomy in practice and can assess and prescribe interventions on the spot. The SBHC Nurse Practitioner communicates with the school nurse, social workers and nutritionists frequently to update care plans.

A Passport2Health

Shortly after Susan began working in the SBHC she recognized the need for students to have enhanced care coordination and transition post-graduation. Susan noted that her and her colleagues would get students caught-up with standard health care maintenance for teenagers, i.e. vaccinations, physicals, etc. up to graduation. All the work of her and her colleagues was at jeopardy once the student graduated and was required to seek these services in a complex health system, independently. Susan researched transition programs for high school seniors but found nothing in the literature.

Susan began compiling a list of important health topics for teenagers. Susan partnered with Oona to expand on this list and further refine the topics. Over 17 pages of material was identified which resulted in a low readability for students. Oona is talented with websites and the idea for a Passport2Health was born.

Susan and Oona were concerned that students would “Google” health topics after graduation and likely find non-credible sources with inaccurate information. They built a website call Passport2Health for students to search for health topics that linked in information from credible online sources.

Health topics and information on the site include health maintenance, reproductive health, men’s health and life skills. The site features information as basic as understanding important documents and cards you want to have quick access to, such as a social security card, birth certificate and insurance card. It also includes resources on meeting more complex needs such as how to secure insurance after graduation and turning 18. A significant number of students are on Medicaid services that are no longer accessible after their 18th birthday. Susan and Oona are helping to fill this information gap with their innovative website.

“Passport2Health is a help not only for seniors but for all students and even their family members,” Susan said.

Susan and Oona take their greatest satisfaction in keeping young people healthy and setting them up for success. As they say on their Passport2Health website, “We are passionate about caring for the adolescent population and providing resources for senior students transitioning to young adulthood.”