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Adverse childhood experiences, safeguarding and the role of the school nurse in promoting resilience and wellbeing

02 February 2022
Volume 3 · Issue 1



School nurses are key professionals in helping to safeguard, support and improve outcomes for children and young people.


The aim of this article is to explore the subject of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in relation to safeguarding and the vital role the school nurse can play in supporting the building of resilience in children and young people (CYP) and their families.


A critical review of the literature was undertaken, considering the role of the school nurse within the safeguarding arena, adverse childhood experiences, collaborative and multi-agency work. The legal, policy and professional frameworks underpinning safeguarding and public health practice are also critically examined.


There is ample evidence demonstrating the potential effects of ACEs on the health and wellbeing of children and young people. There is also research proposing that ACEs should not be viewed in isolation and are not necessarily in themselves deterministic of negative outcomes. School nurses have an important role in early interventions with families to promote resilience and help keep children safe.


The implication of this article is that with sound knowledge and understanding regarding ACEs, the school nurse can play a vital role as part of the wider team in building the resilience of the community, provide therapeutic interventions and early intervention, and thereby help to safeguard, support, and improve outcomes for CYP and their families.

The safeguarding of a child's wellbeing is a fundamental part of the role of the school nurse (Department for Education [DfE], 2018). This article explores the subject of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in relation to safeguarding drawing upon relevant evidence, theory, and policy. The role of the school nurse as a specialist community public health nurse (SCPHN) within the safeguarding arena will be discussed with reference to collaborative and multi-agency work. The legal, policy and professional frameworks underpinning safeguarding and public health practice will be critically considered. While reference is made within this article to safeguarding within the NHS context, safeguarding is applicable within all health and social care organisations and contexts.

A literature search was carried out using academic databases (CINAHL complete database, Medline and Google Scholar). The following key words (school nurse, adverse childhood experiences, resilience, safeguarding children, collaborative working, public health, communities) were used. Inclusion criteria included being published between 1998 and 2021, in the English language, academic articles and government documents (including guidelines), generalisability and transferability. Articles with a narrow focus, particularly with a social work background, were excluded as they were lacking in transferability.

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