Kierra Diltz, Vantage Career Center Senior Health Science student, checks the vision of St. Mary’s kindergarten student Grace Eversole. (DHI Media/Sherry Missler)
Kierra Diltz, Vantage Career Center Senior Health Science student, checks the vision of St. Mary’s kindergarten student Grace Eversole. (DHI Media/Sherry Missler)

VAN WERT — Last month a group of school nurses and Van Wert County Health Department staff gathered at Vantage Career Center to receive training on new equipment. Members of this group, made up of nurses from Van Wert, Paulding, and Defiance counties, were then nationally certified for three years to conduct vision screenings on school children. Trainees also received screening equipment valued over $500 from grant funds through Prevent Blindness Ohio. The equipment included a five-foot Lea VIP Crowded Symbol chart and cabinet to screen visual acuity and a PASS2 screen tool.

Kathy Will, Director of Nursing at the Van Wert County Health Department, explained how the training came about. “Van Wert County Health Department realized there were screening procedures and equipment that needed to be updated to meet new vision screening requirements so we reached out to the area schools to offer this training that we’d found through Prevent Blindness Ohio.”

Will said that vision for school children is very important. “If a child can’t see well, they’re not going to be successful in school. Vision screens can be done on children as young as preschool-age. The schools are required by the Ohio Department of Health to screen for preschool, kindergarten and every other year from first grade through 11th grade. We can also screen at the teacher’s request if they are seeing a problem with a child’s eyes.”

She added that this program is not designed to replace examinations by eye care professionals. “Prevent Blindness wants to make sure that vision screening has a strong public health element to increase the number of children who receive access to vision care. Children and their parents often do not know if their child has a vision problem. Prevent Blindness acknowledges that professional eye exams are the gold standard of eye care and always should be encouraged. So what we do is a screening and encourage parents to have a vision exam by a professional if we find an issue. We can help parents through programs we have. We can get them into an eye specialist, and they can do a better exam than the screening we can do.”

Before the training, there was a brief meeting with the school nurses who attended. Among other things, they discussed immunization updates, vision and hearing screening guidelines that were new for this year, disease surveillance, and Children with Medical Handicaps. The last is a program through the Ohio Department of Health that helps children get to specialists they need. Will said, “We want to make sure that the school nurses have that information to be able to give to the parents. I think with all those pieces we’ve put together a nice program for the school nurses from doing the screenings to the referral and possibly referral to us to get that next step paid for. Through the Health Department CMH program, we can actually follow children and guide them to the professionals they need to see.”

The vision screening equipment arrived just in time for health screenings at St. Mary of the Assumption School. At that screening, as well as at Crestview and Van Wert City Schools, the Vantage Senior Health Careers students assisted with screenings. The students, under the supervision of the school nurses or Health Department nurses, have been trained for screenings by their instructor, Wendy Baumle, under the same guidelines the school nurses are trained. This helps to complete screenings more efficiently and get students back to regular classroom routines quicker, creating less interruption for the day.