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School Nurses Learn About Narcolepsy

May 12, 2010
The Lancaster County School Nurses Association (Pennsylvania) invited me to speak at their annual dinner during the first week of May. This dinner was held in the Fireside Tavern at the Historic Strasburg Inn, set amidst the endless rolling hills of Amish Country.  It was my honor to educate them about narcolepsy and provide an overview of other sleep disorders in children. 

The evening kicked off with a cocktail hour that provided an opportunity to get acquainted with many of the school nurses.  After the main course was served the Chair of the association announced my presentation.  I started by thanking them for inviting me and for their interest in narcolepsy. I told them first about what we do at Narcolepsy Network.  It was very important for this presentation to be interactive so I asked what they knew about narcolepsy and its symptoms. Several nurses mentioned sleepiness but no one said anything about cataplexy or other REM symptoms. I realized how little they knew about narcolepsy. Next I asked them to fill out the Epworth Sleepiness Scale and to look at the Narcolepsy Pre-Screener on the Info Cards we had printed. They all enjoyed these activities. We discussed cataplexy in detail and other symptoms as well. I also spoke about causes, diagnosis and treatments and situations unique to children. We further discussed how schools and in particular school nurses can help. I spoke about several individual cases involving children, how difficult the period of onset can be and how a correct diagnosis is often delayed when symptoms are not recognized early.

School nurses are a very caring group.  They had many relevant questions, some with specific students in mind. One question involved a student who has diabetes and accompanying sleep issues whom had she thought could not be helped. I distributed NN educational publications as well as materials from the American Sleep Apnea Association and Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation. The handouts will be shared with the other nurses in their schools and with teachers and aides as well.

This is only the beginning of our efforts to bring narcolepsy awareness to the classroom. School nurse groups are highly receptive to learning about narcolepsy. Their caring nature combined with increased awareness is a formula for success in promoting early recognition and correct diagnoses of narcolepsy in school-aged children.  We look forward to future opportunities to share our knowledge and stories with school nurse groups throughout the U.S. and to train interested members throughout the country to respond to the growing demand for speakers.

-Eveline Honig, MD, MPH 
  NN Executive Director

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Date Created: May 12th, 2010
Last Updated: August 29th, 2010