HDC Spotlight: Courtney Bissonnette, RN, MSN

Ms. Courtney Bissonnette, RN, MSN recently began working at the Human Development Center (HDC) as a Health Specialist for HDC’s Early Head Start Child Care Partnership (EHS-CCP) project and a member of the core faculty of the Louisiana Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) program. Before joining HDC as a Registered Nurse (RN) and Health Specialist, Courtney worked as an acute care pediatric nurse on pediatric medical surgical units for five-years. She also spent a year at a pediatric primary care clinic as a pediatric triage nurse. Courtney left the hospital setting and earned a Master of Science in Nursing Education, while simultaneously working full-time as a nurse at a childcare center that served young children with special needs. Courtney has a personal relationship with developmental disabilities. She is the mother of a child with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. Courtney’s professional training and life experiences make her uniquely able to notice small details that can impact a family or child’s health, wellness, and quality of life. Courtney uses this lens in her daily work to make sure that faculty, staff, teachers, families and children possess the wellness tools they need to reach their full potential.

“My goal is to create a more energized and healthy environment for EHS-CCP partners so that they may operate at their fullest potential and encourage resilience among their students.”

Courtney Bissonnette, RN, MSN

HDC’s EHS-CCP project collaborates with local childcare centers to provide family-centered services for low-income families with very young children. The Health Specialist monitors EHS-CCP student health statuses and ensures that appropriate referrals are made to address any health issues identified. Furthermore, Courtney designs and implements monthly Wellness Committees to encourage a healthy environment at EHS-CCP childcare centers.

Healthy Staff leads to Healthy Students which creates a Healthy School

Courtney demonstrates why wellness is important in a school environment by pointing to a phrase used by the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors: “Healthy School, Healthy Staff, Healthy Students”(https://chronicdisease.org/healthy-school-staff-students-a-guide-to-improving-school-employee-wellness/)

As the pandemic allows, Courtney plans to gather EHS-CCP teachers and staff to discuss a variety of topics that support physical, mental, emotional, and social health. The purpose of Wellness Committee meetings is to create a more energized, positive, and healthy workplace for EHS-CCP partners and the children they serve. Strategies for enhancing the wellness of EHS-CCP partners may include inviting a yoga instructor to teach daily meditative practices that can reduce stress, or possibly a local chef to demonstrate quick, healthy meals that won’t break the bank.

Finally, in her role on the LEND program, Courtney works with community partners (i.e., including Directors of Childcare centers and other civic leaders) and other faculty at HDC to design, plan and implement Community Health Information, Resource and Referral (CHIRR) programs. The purpose of CHIRR programs is to provide health-related information, resources and referrals to members of underserved communities, as well as, increase the access to quality health resources, information and services prioritized by community members. When this vision reaches fruition, families HDC serve will have additional opportunities to address immediate health needs, and graduate students preparing for careers in health and education professions will be better able to serve communities who currently are under-resourced.

About the Early Head Start Child Care Partnership (EHS-CCP)

EHS-CCP is a coordinated continuum of education, health and family services delivered through the LSUHSC Human Development Center and our partners in the Greater New Orleans area. Through our partnerships we aim to carry out the mission of the Human Development Center of building capacity and inspiring change in both the classroom and homestead. Our program serves families with children aged six weeks to three years old who fall below the federal poverty line.

About the Louisiana Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program

The Louisiana Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) is a nine-month interdisciplinary training program that incorporates both didactic and experiential learning in clinical and community-based settings. LA LEND prepares graduate students, family members, self-advocates, and practicing professionals to become future leaders in designing and implementing services, policies, advocacy, and consuming/conducting research and evaluation addressing the needs and priorities of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), other neurodevelopmental disabilities (NDD) and developmental disabilities (DD) and their families.