Nurses due at 16 more schools Pilot program being expanded

August 10, 1993|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff Writer

The Anne Arundel County Board of Education, facing increasingly complicated student health needs and a state mandate calling for in-school health programs, will add nurses at 16 more schools this fall.

The new nurse assignments are an expansion of a pilot program started last school year in which in-school nurses were hired for seven county schools. The expanded program, run jointly by the school system and Health Department, will cost $785,000.

Before last year, no county schools had nurses. Health rooms were staffed by parent volunteers, said Vicki Taliaferro, a registered nurse and health services specialist with the school system.

Since parents are not qualified to provide medical services, their role was limited to keeping track of sick students and helping them contact their parents to determine whether they should go home, she said.

Having a trained medical professional in the schools makes sense, said Patricia McDonald, a nursing supervisor for school health with the county Health Department.

"The needs of children have changed. There's more stresses on the family now, more people without insurance. We're seeing students with seizure disorders, diabetes, attention deficit problems, hyperactivity," Ms. McDonald said. "With nurses in the schools, we are identifying more health problems earlier. And the earlier we identify a problem and remedy it, the better the student's chances of learning."

School nurses provide a variety of services, including evaluating medical conditions and advising students about sexually transmitted diseases, said Barbara Calabrese, a school nurse at Chesapeake High School.

"Healthy children can learn. Ill children cannot," she said. "That's why this program is so important."

Sometimes, simple preventive medicine can ward off a more serious problem later on, she said.

Also, federal mandates calling for the mainstreaming of students with medical disabilities mean an increasing number of "medically fragile children" in county schools, she said.

"We will see more students with respirators and wheelchairs, students who need tube feedings, who have had colostomies," she said.

To help with the demand for service, the Anne Arundel program will provide a full-time health assistant along with the nurse at each high school served. Each middle and elementary school will have a full-time health assistant, and there will be one nurse for every two schools.

Even with the 16 schools added, 90 will be without nurses. The state Board of Education, which passed the School Health Standards calling for the services in 1991, has recommended that all counties have in-school nursing programs by the 1995-1996 school year.

Anne Arundel might not have the entire school system covered by then, but "we're moving toward it," Ms. Taliaferro said. The amount of money the county budgets will dictate how quickly the school system expands the program, she said.

The schools selected to have nurses have been chosen based on the number of students with special medical needs, the number of special education programs at a particular school, the number of student trips to the health room and other factors, Ms. Taliaferro said.

Last year, schools in the Chesapeake High School cluster got nurses. This fall, the following schools will be added to the program: Annapolis Senior, Meade Senior, Old Mill Senior, Severn River Junior, Magothy Middle, Annapolis Middle, Central Middle, Southern Middle, Van Bokkelen Elementary, West Meade Elementary, Parole Elementary, Central Elementary, Lothian Elementary, Brooklyn Park Elementary, Park Elementary and Belle Grove Elementary.

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