Calais hospital presents devices to help school nurses address asthma

Posted Nov. 09, 2011, at 3:14 p.m.

CALAIS, Maine — The local hospital on Wednesday presented electronic peak flow meters to school nurses serving nearly 2,200 student in 19 schools in Eastern Washington County.

A peak flow meter measures how well a person can blow air out of their lungs and can reveal narrowing of the airways well in advance of an asthma attack. Used mainly by persons with moderate-to-severe and persistent asthma, peak flow meters can help determine:

• When to seek emergency medical care.

• The effectiveness of a person’s asthma management and treatment plan.

• When to stop or add medication, as directed by a physician.

• What triggers the asthma attack (such as exercise-induced asthma).

Calais Regional Medical Services, a department of Calais Regional Hospital, presented the peak flow meters to local school nurses on Wednesday.

Maine has some of the highest rates of asthma in the country, and Washington County is reported to have the highest rates of emergency room visits for asthma in Maine. Calais Regional Medical Services and Calais Regional Hospital has been working with Medical Care Development on the Asthma Practice Improvement Project to address the significant impact asthma has on the people of Down East Maine.

“Ensuring that schools in eastern Washington County have access to a high quality, electronic peak flow meter is an important part of the project because of the need to prevent chronic lung disease,” stated Dr. David Walter, CRMS Pediatrician. “This is just one of many great initiatives that have been implemented as part of the project.”

This work has been funded by a grant from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. The institute is part of the National Institutes of Health, the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research.

Since the launch of this project in 2009, CRMS, local health care staff and community members have all attended various asthma educational training sessions to improve the ability to accurately diagnose, classify severity and provide optimal treatment for asthma patients.

CRMS clinical staff has also been working closely with the Calais Regional Hospital Emergency Department. ED staff was trained on instructing patients and families how to use nebulizers correctly. Nebulizers are now available in the emergency department 24/7 for asthma patients as needed to take home with them if ordered by the physician. Another key component of the asthma improvement work has been connecting to community partners. CRMS has been collaborating with the school-based health center, local school nurses and public health nurses.

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