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The role of the school nurse in tackling serious youth violence: an analysis of healthcare provision

02 February 2021
Volume 2 · Issue 1



Incidents of serious youth violence have increased; however, the effectiveness of school nurse interventions in reducing these incidents lacks evidence.


To better understand the current role of the school nurse in relation to serious youth violence.


A mixed-method approach was taken, involving two key elements: a staff survey exploring school nurse experiences, interventions and confidence in delivering serious youth violence education and identifying vulnerable children and young people, and an audit of emergency department referrals and school nurse responses.


The survey provided no evidence of interventions to reduce serious youth violence. Staff recognised their role in educating children and young people but lacked confidence and wanted further support. School nurse work with children and young people where serious youth violence had been identified mainly involved safeguarding. Only nine of the 62 emergency department referrals were followed up with a face-to-face contact.


School nurses recognise their role in serious youth violence but are not reflecting this in practice. Change is required to fulfil their public health role in helping to prevent or reduce serious youth violence.

Analysis of the school nursing service's response to youth violence and serious youth violence in two London boroughs was undertaken following raising incidents of youth violence in the area.

The World Health Organization (WHO, 2002) defines violence as ‘the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation”.

Definitions of youth violence vary, especially when stipulating the age bracket that constitutes ‘youth’. The WHO (2002) include children and young people aged 10–29 years old, whereas the Metropolitan Police Authority (2012) use 1–19 years old in their definition. However, organisations are in agreement that serious youth violence is an offence of the most serious violent or weapon-enabled crime, which include murder, manslaughter, rape, wounding with intent and causing grievous bodily harm. Youth violence includes lesser offences, such as assault with injury and acts of bullying (WHO, 2002; Metropolitan Police Authority, 2012; London Safeguarding Children Board, 2017).

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