School Health Services Updates

Keep up to date with what’s going on, with Karen Robitaille’s (Director of School Health Services/ School SBIRT Coordinator) monthly updates.DPH

11/20/2020 MDPH School Health Unit Update

Greetings from the School Health Unit! It has been a tough week for me.  Maybe it was for you too.  Then something happened in a meeting I was part of.  Someone expressed their thanks in a moving and heartfelt way and that caused an avalanche of gratitude in the comments; for the original “thanker”, as well as for others in the meeting.  All of a sudden, everything seemed a wee bit lighter.  There were tears in my eyes, but a smile on my face.  I know intellectually that gratitude is good for me, but it’s quite another thing to experience it so viscerally. This email will be short, and I won’t send one next week, so I want to take this opportunity, More

MDPH SCHOOL HEALTH UNIT UPDATE: 11/12/2020 Perfectionism

Please see the following communication below from Karen Robitaille, Director of School Health Services, MDPH School Health Unit.  Greetings from the School Health Unit! Perfectionism.  I’ve got it.  In fact, I have struggled with this my entire life.  I’m a Capricorn, an INFJ (Meyers-Briggs personality profile), and the daughter of two parents with perfectionism, so maybe it’s in my DNA.  At times it has served me very well, but more often than not I can see that it harms me, as well as those about me.  Consider the definition from Oxford (and while you’re at it, note the marked increase of the term in the last twenty years or so): I bring this up for two reasons.  First, I feel like many nurses... More

MDPH School Health Unit Update: 10/30/2020

Greetings from the School Health Unit! It was so good to see so many of you at our October regional meetings.  I hope that you are finding these meaningful and useful, and a reminder that feedback is always welcome.  In November we will focus on Working with Local Health Departments, and we hope to see you there! As I walked my dog Harley the other evening, I began thinking about Halloween, and how different and sort of sad it has been for me in the last few years with my own children grown and (mostly) gone.  When they were young it was SUCH a big deal for our family; the anticipation of goodies, the costume planning, and the break-in routine (Outside!  At... More

10/15/20 MDPH School Health Unit Update

Greetings from the School Health Unit! It was so wonderful to see so many of you at the CSHS state meeting last week!  I hope you found it as helpful as I did to hear about self and collective care from our very talented colleagues from the BRYT program.  We had about 90 participants in the live course and the recorded version should be ready very soon.  Once we collect data from both versions on preferred meeting times, we will set the times for the remaining meetings and communicate those to you.  Regional Nurse Leader meetings are starting up again this week and next, so don’t forget to register!  Additionally, we are holding a CSHS grant orientation meeting on October 15th... More

School Health Update 09/11/2020

Greetings from the School Health Unit! I remember with great clarity where I was 19 years ago today.  I first heard about what was happening in NYC via a news alert on my computer, as I was one of the few buildings with access to the internet in my district.  The following days were a blur of trying to explain things to my young children and supporting school staff and students, many of whom had family directly affected by the attacks.  Many people are still suffering the after-effects of that day because of a personal loss, the collective trauma we all experienced, or lingering illness as a result of being “on the ground”.  Today we pause to remember and reflect, and... More

Guidance for School Staff: Applying EPA- Approved Mosquito Repellent to Prevent EEE

Greetings (again) from the School Health Unit!   Reducing Risk of Mosquito-borne Illness While Outdoors Guidance for School Staff: Applying EPA- Approved Mosquito Repellent to Prevent EEE MosqHandoutKids_EN-SP1 Mosquito Bite Prevention OnePager - Caregivers - SPA Mosquito Bite Prevention OnePager - Caregivers Mosquito Bite Prevention Poster - Kids - SPA Mosquito Bite Prevention Poster - Kids Massachusetts is in the second year of an EEE outbreak cycle, and there is a risk that people may be infected. However, children can continue to spend time outdoors for recess and other activities during the day with the use of repellent—as well as wearing long-sleeves, long pants, and socks when possible. Outdoor activities should be avoided between dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active. EEE (Eastern equine encephalitis) is a rare... More

DPH Updates

Greetings from the School Health Unit! The start of a new school year has always brought me excitement, anxiety, and a sense of a new beginning.  As a mom and a school nurse, for the last 30 years, my life has been structured around a school-year schedule.  Until now, I never appreciated just how comforting this routine and structure is for me personally.  This year everything feels different, and if it feels that way for me, I can only imagine how it feels for our school colleagues, students, and families.  Many of you haven’t had a break this summer.  We have all been immersed in case counts, death counts, PPE discussions, classroom and health room configurations, and all in a climate... More

School Health Services Update

Hello School Nurse Managers, School has already started for many and will soon be in full swing for all!  I’m writing once again with updates from the DPH School Health Program. Orientation Orientation for Model and Affiliated CSHS-funded programs will take place September 19th (all programs) and September 20th (Model programs only).  Registration is now open:  please register for the correct orientation on BU SHIELD’s website at Contracts I am so pleased to announce that Juliet Berk has started with the Department as the new Contract Manager for the CSHS programs—welcome Juliet!  She is your main point of contact for all contract questions, and can be reached at  Many of you who have been awarded Affiliated contracts have emailed me about these—you did... More

School Health Nurse Spotlight

Hello School Nurse Managers, Congratulations on bringing another school year to a close.  I’m writing to you today to once again welcome you as recipients of Model or Affiliated Comprehensive School Health funding beginning July 1, 2019, and to give you an update on the School Health Unit at the Department of Public Health.  Despite our many staffing changes, the Department remains deeply committed to school health services and to providing support to all of you as you serve the students of the Commonwealth. All Model School health programs should have received contracts for next year; if you have not yet returned those to the Department please do so as soon as possible.  Affiliated School Health program contracts will be issued soon... More

School Health Services Update: June 13, 2019

Dear Colleagues, Many schools are already finished for the year and many more are ending this week and next.  This is the final MDPH Email Update for the 2018-2019 School Year and the final MDPH Email Update from me as the Director of School Health Services!  As you know, I am retiring as of June 28th as well as Janet Burke, Medication Administration Program Coordinator, who also retires the end of the month! Working with each of you has been such a wonderful experience, and I will cherish the memories forever. Life is fleeting, so I have decided to retire and leave behind the workforce (and the daily commute to Boston!) so I can enjoy reading, biking, walking the beach and watching... More

School Health Services Update: May 17th, 2019

Dear Colleagues, It is the season for award ceremonies and graduations! Please see the section on School Nurses in the News for a listing of School Nurses and other colleagues who have been recognized for their achievements!  It is amazing the impact and accomplishments of School Nurses have our students and families across the state due to the dedication of these professionals!  Please continue to send me any exciting news of colleagues that I can share! Hope to see many of you at the School-based Medicaid program for school nurses this coming Thursday, May 23rd.  Just a reminder that this program is being held to discuss Nursing services in schools (including pre-planned services, 1-on-1 nursing, unplanned visits, and health screenings, etc.): When:... More

School Health Services Update: May 1, 2019

Dear Colleagues, This year, National School Nurse Day is next Wednesday, May 8th (it’s always the Wednesday during National Nurses Week). Since 1972, School Nurse Day has been set aside to recognize school nurses. National School Nurse Day was established to foster a better understanding of the role of school nurses in the educational setting.  This is truly an opportunity to  honor school nurses everywhere and all that they do!!  But what if no one knows who you are and the credentials you have worked hard to obtain? What if no one knows the advance skills you possess to deliver nursing care in schools?  Or no one understands what complex services can be provided to children by the school nurses in your... More

School Health Services Update: April 3rd, 2019

Dear Colleagues, It’s been another busy week meeting with school nurses at regional meetings in the Northeast, Southeast and Western Regions!  Thank you for your attendance and participation at these essential programs.  And thank you to our Regional Consultants for always providing the most current updates and information needed by school health staff at these programs!  (We look forward to meeting with school nurses in the Central Region next week!)  And please know that the Regional Consultation Program will continue as part of the Comprehensive School Health Services (CSHS) program and we hope all of you – in both public and non-public schools – will continue to participate in this opportunity for networking, consultation and technical assistance in order to improve... More

School Health Services Update: March 15th, 2019

Dear Colleagues, It was an inspiring, reflective and emotional day on Wednesday!  We heard from extraordinary School Nurse Leaders from across the state as to how they broke free of the “glass cage” to lead with courage, power and voice!  We listened to their stories of growth through their mistakes and their triumphs addressing the needs of their students and staff! We heard their strategies for dealing with difficult managers and co-workers.  We learned how they gathered, analyzed and used data to support their requests for additional staff and resources.  Many thanks to each of them, Jill Gasperini, Laurie Melchionda, Barbara Singer, Rita Casper, Pam Ciborowski, Cheryl Barczak, Debra McGovern, Cynthia Carbone, Marie Fahey, Phyllis DuComb, and Pamela Rivers for sharing... More

School Health Services Update: March 6th, 2019

Dear Colleagues, NASN’s Framework for 21st Century School Nursing Practice ( provides structure and focus for the key principles and components of current day, evidence-based school nursing practice. Central to the Framework is student-centered nursing care that occurs in collaboration with the students’ family and school community. Surrounding the students, family, and school community are the key principles of Care Coordination, Leadership, Quality Improvement, and Community/Public Health. These principles are surrounded by the fifth principle, Standards of Practice, which is evidence-based, clinically competent, quality care. School nurses daily use the skills outlined in the practice components of each principle to help students be healthy, safe, and ready to learn. We know that the number of children who attend school and have... More

School Health Services Update: February 13th, 2019

Dear Colleagues, With permission, I am attaching a letter that Pam Vaughn, RN, BSN, School Nurse at the Harrington Elementary School in Lexington, recently received from a grateful student. It’s the reason why we do what we do every day! While Pam is not alone, I’m sure in receiving a note of appreciation from a student, a staff member or from a family member, we often fail to acknowledge the good we do with our peers – and supervisors! I want to thank Jill Gasperini, the Director of School Health Services for the Lexington Public Schools for sharing this letter with us! Remember, as Maya Angelou once said, “They will forget what you do, they will forget what you say, but... More

School Health Services Update: January 30th, 2019

Dear Colleagues, Included in the email below is a new American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement that recommends among other things that pediatricians avoid writing excuses for school absences when the absence is not appropriate.  Both excused and unexcused absences contribute to chronic absenteeism and pediatricians must partner with schools to encourage school attendance.  This may be the time for you to work with your local pediatricians and educate them as to how they should be encouraging school attendance and not provide notes for absences that they have not deemed appropriate.  Please also note that this policy statement encourages families to share health concerns with their child’s school nurse. This year, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health marks its 150th Year!... More

School Health Services Update: January 22nd, 2019

Dear Colleagues, It’s a busy (shortened week) filled with Regional Meetings in the West, Southeast and Northeast!  If you work in one of these areas, we hope to see you there!  In the meantime, here are some limited, but important updates for this week! Thank you for all you do- every day – to serve our students and their families! Mary Ann and the School Health Team Ask yourself three questions ... and you will know who you are. Ask: what do you believe in? What do you hope for? But most important -- ask: what do you love?   Paullina Simons, author, in "The Bronze Horseman" SCHOOL NURSES IN THE NEWS! Allison MacGilvray, BSN, RN, NCSN, School Nurse Medford Public Schools has achieved recognition as a... More

School Health Services Update: January 18th, 2019

Dear Colleagues, With an impending snow storm looming for the coming weekend, I hope you – and all the children you serve – find yourselves in a warm, dry and safe home.  We look forward to seeing many of our at the regional meetings in the west, southeast and northeast next week! Several issues have risen to our attention this week; one concerning the preparation of “home-prepared tube feeding preparations”.  I want to remind nurses of the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Nursing Advisory Ruling on Nursing Practice, Title: Infusion Therapy, Advisory Ruling Number: 9204 most recently revised in May 2015 which states, that an RN or LPN must “Not administer an infusion solution that the nurse has not procured, removed from... More

School Health Services Update: December 4th, 2018

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) Bureau of Community Health and Prevention’s School Health Services (SHS) Unit is seeking applications from local public school districts, regional school districts, local boards of health that provide school health services, charter schools, vocational-technical schools, educational collaboratives and non-public (non-profit) schools, including approved special education schools for the Comprehensive School Health Service (CSHS) Affiliated  Program. The proposed Comprehensive School Health Services (CSHS) Programs (formerly Essential School Health Services) are intended to provide additional support to the existing required baseline of quality, comprehensive health services in all public and non-public (non-profit) schools.. The goal of the CSHS Program is to build on existing infrastructure to provide all school-age children access to a school health service... More

School Health Services Update: November 14th, 2018

Dear Colleagues, It’s been a very busy week…and with the upcoming holidays, I’m sure it’s been busy in your offices as well!  We know that holidays are not always the happy times we wish they were for all children.  Thanks for keeping your door – and hearts – open to all children in need. It has been a pleasure to see so many of you at our Regional Meetings!  Thank you for your attendance and participation at these essential networking and consultation programs!  And it was wonderful to have so many attend the CSHS Bidders Conferences as well as those who “listened in” online!  Thank you for your interest in this funding for School Health Services! If your school or district has... More

School Health Services Update: October 26, 2018

Dear Colleagues, It has been a busy week and there are a few additional updates for this week that may be both of interest to you and other school health staff in your community and time sensitive!  Please forward! We hope to see as many of you as possible at the upcoming Regional Consultation meetings! Please stay dry and warm during the impending nor’-easter this weekend….and Go Sox!! Thank you for all you do – every day! Mary Ann and the entire School Health Services Team “The quality of strength lined with tenderness is an unbeatable combination." -- Maya Angelou, writer and civil rights activist A REMINDER:  CSHS RFR BIDDER CONFERENCES First location:   Monday October 29th 2018 Time: 1:00PM-3:00PM, UMASS Medical School, 55 N Lake Ave, More

School Health Services Update: October 22, 2018

Dear Colleagues, I am pleased to welcome, Caitlin Pettengill, DNP, RN, to our School Health Services Team!!  Dr. Pettengill is beginning her new role as the Assistant Director of School Health Services this week and will be assuming responsibilities for many of the programs we oversee in School Health as she becomes more oriented to her role.  Caitlin’s previous experience includes clinical roles in community health centers, hospitals, home-care agencies, dialysis clinics and instructing nursing students in long-term care settings.  Caitlin earned her BSN from Northeastern University, and has completed graduate coursework in Molecular Immunology at Harvard University.  She obtained her DNP in Public Health at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and is currently enrolled in the Genetics/Genomics graduate certificate... More

School Health Services Update: October 11, 2018

Dear Colleagues, I am pleased to announce that the MDPH CSHS RFR has been released!  Hopefully, you have received the email sent recently with details of this procurement for Comprehensive School Health Service funding!  Details are available on the Compass website. Questions can be addressed to Alison Brill at  Per state procurement protocols, responses to all inquiries will be posted on the Commbuys website; no individual responses will be sent. All questions must be received by November 14th, 2019, for response. Congratulations to the school nurses who have recently been nationally certified as a school nurse!  Many of these nurses have been listed in these emails (with their permission) but we now have over 800+ school nurses who have achieved NCSN status... More

October 3, 2018 CSHS RFR Update

All, The first news I have to share is the CSHS RFR is to be released soon....right on schedule!  I apologize that I have not been as available as I attempt to be but this has consumed all of my time for the past several weeks including days, evenings and nights!  But it will be worth it if we get a good response! Once it is released ALL DPH staff - including myself - must be mum on the topic.  We will not be able to respond to ANY inquiries.  All questions must be directed to the online site that will be posted and they will be answered for all to see on this same site.  We are also planning two Bidder... More

School Health Services Update: October 3, 2018

​Dear Colleagues, A recent nursing blog written by a school nurse entitled “The Challenges of Being a School Nurse and How to Resolve Them” by Tessa Curry (found at ) highlighted the challenges of “working as the school nurse at a learning institution” and discussed how practicing nursing outside of a healthcare environment comes with its own unique challenges. We all know how this  can lead to competing interests, ethical issues, and concerns related to practicing safe nursing care. This has been highlighted recently by the challenges of school nurses in managing students with Type 1 Diabetes in our schools in collaboration with parents, primary care providers, and specialists in endocrinology.  Each of these groups has a very different understanding of... More

School Health Services Update: September 26, 2018

Dear Colleagues, Fall has begun and the school year is in full swing!  I’m sure your office is humming with activity and lots of programming occurring!  This Email UPDATE for School Health Faculty is full of programs and resources to help you stay current in your practice! Regional meetings will be starting again soon, and we hope to see many of you there!  And please mark Wednesday, December 5th, on your calendar for our next statewide meeting.  We will be including all mental health providers, including school psychologists at this meeting to discuss such topics as DBT and Mindfulness, Challenges of Managing Crisis in Schools, and looking at Chronic Absenteeism in our schools.   Invite your colleagues to save the date! Lots more to... More

School Health Services Update: September 17, 2018

Dear Colleagues, Thank you for participating in our statewide meeting last week.  It’s always a full agenda!  And wonderful to see so many in attendance and ready for a day packed full of information and resources!  Thank you for your presence.  And remember, the next one is scheduled for Wednesday, December 5th and we hope to see all of you (and those that weren’t able to attend this week) along with your School Mental Health Providers: school social workers, school  counselors (both guidance and adjustment), school  psychologists and any other interested staff members.  The agenda includes information related to mindfulness in schools, a grassroots School Mental Health organization, and a focus on evaluating chronic absenteeism among other topics.  We hope you... More

School Health Services Update: August 28, 2018

All, Thanks to Patty McCaffrey, Director of Nursing for the Waltham Public Schools, we have obtained the attached pharmacy memo pertaining to the Extended Expiration Dates for Select Lots of EpiPen® 0.3 mg Auto-Injectors and its Authorized Generic. Thank you all, Mary Ann   Mary Ann Gapinski, MSN, RN, NCSN Director of School Health Services MA Department of Public Health 250 Washington Street – 5th Floor Boston, MA  02108 Website: SBIRT information:                    

School Health Services Update: August 24, 2018

Dear Colleagues, Welcome to the beginning of a new school year!  Like the children and adolescents we serve, I hope you have come back refreshed, renewed and excited for the many opportunities to improve the health and safety of our students!  There is much happening across the state….the email below is filled with important updates, new guidance, valuable resources and available continuing professional development programs for all School Health personnel!  (There are also  five attachments included with this email.)  Please be sure to forward this to your colleagues in your school building, in your district and in your community! A reminder to mark your calendar for the first statewide meeting for all School Nurse Managers to be held on Wednesday, September 12th, More