Lpn Criteria Quandary For Health Aides

August 14, 1991|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff writer

As a health assistant, Kathy Saunders has worked for three years at Francis Scott Key High School, bandaging bruised knees and cuts and maintaining student immunization records.

"I'm not really just a health assistant," the 41-year-old mother of three said. "I'm someone who cares about the students, no matter how small an item or complaintmay be."

Compassion and cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first-aid skillsused to be enough to work as a health assistant in Carroll schools.

But more stringent Maryland Department of Education requirements and a rise in the number of students with serious or multiple health problems are changing that.

The Carroll school board will consider a proposal today to upgrade qualifications of health suite personnel.The plan would affect fewer than 10 health assistants in the district's 30 schools.

Under the proposal, health assistants could seek voluntary transfers to other positions in the system or seek additional training to become licensed practical or registered nurses.

During fiscal 1993, 1994 and 1995, the district would grant four unpaid leaves of absence to present health assistants with satisfactory or better annual evaluations.

Once licensed, employees could return to their former positions and receive reimbursement for up to $1,800 in tuition costs.

A proposal submitted to the board in June had called for the training to be completed by 1994. The Carroll Association of School Employees, which represents health assistants argued that that time frame created hardships on workers.

The staff subsequentlyformed a committee made up of administrators, CASE representatives and health assistants to furtherstudy the matter.

"I think the toneand the emphasis of the proposal has changed," said Sharon Fischer, CASE president. "While the recommendation for them becoming LPNs is still there, there are other recommendations and other guidelines thatmore firmly determine how things will be handled in the school system."

The proposal, for instance, outlines previously undefined administrative procedures, such as temporary placement of a student needing special medical attention in a nearby school staffed by a licensednurse.

In addition, Fischer said CASE was pleased with issues submitted for further exploration, such as increasing the number of health employees in schools with large enrollments or a high number of medically at-risk students.

Superintendent R. Edward Shilling said the proposal doesn't jeopardize jobs and outlines the training needed to accommodate a changing student enrollment.

"We are seeing more medically fragile students in our schools," he said. "This meets our needs and especially the needs of these students."

Saunders, though receptive to receiving additional training, said she was uncertain about whether she would enroll in a licensed practical nurse program.She said returning to school full time would strain her household and the family's budget. Her part-time job supplements the family income.

Fischer said unpaid sabbaticals concerned CASE, but the board has maintained that the matter is a collective bargaining issue.

"They have every right to bring that up during collective bargaining," Shilling said.

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