School nurses can improve the lives of students with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/ Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, by Kenneth J. Friedman, Beth Mattey, Faith Newton in NASN School Nurse [First Published September 15, 2018]
Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) is a chronic illness that is defined and diagnosed by its symptoms: extreme fatigue made worse by physical and mental activity, pain and decreased mental stamina, among others.
A long-held, erroneous belief that ME/CFS is not a physiological illness has persisted among some clinicians, leading to the denial of a patient’s physical illness and attributing the symptoms to other causes.
The debilitating effects of ME/CFS in the pediatric population can affect all aspects of academic, social, emotional, and physical development. ME/CFS has been diagnosed in children younger than 10 years. Therefore, the school nurse is likely to encounter one or more students in the various stages of this disease, putting the school nurse in a position to ameliorate the impact of this potentially devastating chronic condition.
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Role of the School Nurse
The role of the school nurse in assisting a student with ME/CFS falls into three main categories:
(1) being informed about the disease,
(2) recognizing the signs and symptoms of the disease in the student, and educating school staff and families about the disease and its impact, and
(3) advocating for accommodations and modifications in the school setting, and assisting the student in managing what is most likely to be a modified educational program on his or her return to school (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2017b).