Community-Engaged Approach to the Development and Implementation of a Student-Centered Return to Learn Care Plan After Concussion

J Sch Health. 2020 Nov;90(11):842-848. doi: 10.1111/josh.12948. Epub 2020 Sep 21.


Background: Current return to learn (RTL) after concussion guidelines lack specificity for individualized student care, limiting potential for adoption and implementation. We used a community-engaged research framework to develop and evaluate the implementation of a student-centered care plan that assists school personnel in facilitating RTL.

Methods: We used best-practice RTL guidelines and input from administrators and medical experts to iteratively develop a flexible student-centered care plan. Thirteen schools participated. Coding completion of care plans indicated feasibility and fidelity; interviews with RTL coordinators indicated acceptability.

Results: The care plan includes educational materials, symptom checklists, and guidelines for classroom adjustments linked to student symptoms. Care plans were initiated for 24 (70.6%) of 34 students with concussions, indicating feasibility. Fidelity was high, with the following subsections completed: Action Checklist (90%), Symptom Evaluation (91%), Temporary Adjustment Recommendations (95%). Qualitative analysis of interviews suggested care plans were acceptable and facilitate consistent communication, prioritization of individual needs of students, and increased ability to delegate tasks to other school staff.

Conclusions: Implementation of a student-centered, individually tailored care plan for RTL is feasible and acceptable in public high schools. Future research should examine how to expediently initiate student-centered concussion care plans after diagnosis to optimize recovery.

Keywords: child and adolescent health; concussion; return to learn; school health services; school nurses.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Concussion* / therapy
  • Community Participation*
  • Humans
  • Return to School* / standards
  • Schools
  • Stakeholder Participation
  • Students