Take Childhood Bullying by the Horns

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School nurse-psychologist alliance can prevent or at least limit damage

Child crying because of bullying – illustration by Lindsay Bolin Lowery

Illustration by Lindsay Bolin Lowery

Independently, school nurses and psychologists can treat the hurtful outcomes of childhood bullying. Together, they can make great strides toward its prevention, report Joan Kub and a colleague in “Bullying Prevention: A Call for Collaborative Efforts Between School Nurses and School Psychologists.”

In two large surveys of 13- to 15-year-olds across 66 countries, the prevalence of self-reported victimization (having been bullied at least once in the past two months) ranged from 32.1 percent to 37.4 percent. Childhood bullying is recognized as a significant global public health problem, with consequences including suicide, long-term psychological problems, academic performance issues,

psychosocial problems, and involvement with other violent behaviors. “Schools are important sites in which  to address violence prevention, specifically bullying prevention, and to promote positive youth development,” the authors argue.

School nurses and psychologists can have complementary roles in prevention, they write. Psychologists can, among other things, train staff on positive behavioral interventions, assess bullies, and counsel victims. Nurses can identify at-risk children as well as potential bullies, provide a safe haven, and educate parents, staff, and community members about the dangers of bullying. They key to the process is interprofessional education—bringing the nurse and psychologist, quite likely working in isolation, together.

“Working in collaboration with school psychologists would be a win-win situation for all involved. Such an approach may require a new type of school nurse with new roles focusing on wellness or a school-based youth health nurse,” the authors write. “For psychologists, it may mean a departure from traditional roles in assessment and a return to many of the skills that were once learned during their training: research, consultation, and counseling. However, with bullying representing a significant threat to our youth, it seems as though an overhaul  is needed to preserve our children’s future.”

Publication: Psychology in the Schools, August 2015

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