Program puts nurses back in schools

September 18, 1992|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

Twenty five years after they disappeared, school nurses will ++ return to Anne Arundel County under a pilot program school officials hailed yesterday as the fruit of cooperation between themselves and the county government.

School Superintendent C. Berry Carter II called the program, which was started this year at Chesapeake High School and its feeder schools, long overdue.

"We're one of the last school systems in the state, and probably of our size in the country, who have been able to provide these kinds of health services to its students," Mr. Carter said yesterday at a ceremony at Chesapeake Bay Middle School.

The program eventually will put a county health department nurse in every school by the 1996-1997 school year, he said.

"It's been at least 25 years since this type of school health care has been available in Anne Arundel County," said Kenneth Lawson, assistant superintendent for student support services.

County officials abandoned the program to save money, but it became more important in recent years as many students have been integrated into regular classes.

"We have youngsters with fragile health conditions in much greater numbers than were there years ago," Mr. Carter said.

"They require special health services that we had to rely on secretaries and medically untrained personnel to provide. And it's worrisome."

School secretaries have complained for years of being assigned nursing duties, such as giving students medication, but union negotiators never were able to strike it from their contract.

Several officials said Councilman Carl G. "Dutch" Holland was a driving force in the effort to place nurses in schools. Mr. Holland said he first became aware of the need for school nurses when he was president of Chesapeake Bay Middle School PTA.

During his campaign, he promised to "do everything in my power to put a school nurse program in Anne Arundel County."

County school officials, under the pressure of a state Board of Education mandate to enact a school health plan by 1995, devised the project.

The county's plan is a cooperative venture between the school board and the health department. The nurses are employees of the health department who work at the schools through a contract with the school board.

Nurses are to assess the health of each student, as required by the new state regulations, and monitor students with chronic health conditions.

A health assistant, who must have a high school diploma, is to perform minor first aid and other duties that do not require a nurse's expertise.

The assistants working in the pilot project include a licensed practical nurse, medical assistants and nurse's assistants.

The program is expected to cost the school board $431,000 for employee salaries, equipment and supplies.

The schools involved in the Chesapeake Feeder System pilot project are Chesapeake Senior High, Chesapeake Bay Middle, Bodkin Elementary, Fort Smallwood Elementary, Jacobsville Elementary, Lake Shore Elementary and Pasadena Elementary.

The school nurse program will be phased in over five years in school clusters centered on a high school and its feeder schools.

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