Jobs of Md. school nurses becoming more complex 'Not simple Band-Aids and Tylenol' anymore

March 04, 1997|By capital news service

ANNAPOLIS - Each day, Sandra Bell deals with bandages and ice packs, inhalers and tissues. Her patients have allergies, headaches and homework.

As a school nurse at Abingdon Elementary in Harford County, Bell works to make things well - all better, as her children might say.

She had more than 12,000 visits last year, for reasons ranging from daily medications to unexpected emergencies.

Although some elementary schoolers are afraid of what goes on in her office, by the time they leave the "tears are gone. They're smiling."

Bell says that making a difference - every day - is why "I like my job."

There are 421 licensed nurses working in Maryland's 1,276 schools, according to Debbie Somerville, the state Department of Education's school health services specialist.

Ruthie Painter, a school community health nurse with Frederick County's Comprehensive School Health Program, says school nursing has gotten more complex.

"It is not simple Band-Aids and Tylenol," Painter says.

Bell, a five-year veteran, says ailments such as diabetes and asthma are not uncommon. "This is my first year without a diabetic," she notes.

What Somerville terms "fragile conditions" are no longer just treated in hospitals or home, but at schools. "Health care has changed tremendously over the years," she says.

In Frederick, school nurses now supervise health technicians while they spend their own time dealing with education and health assessments, Painter says. For instance, if a child is having problems paying attention or sitting still, a nurse might observe his home and health history and help determine a prognosis.

If a child has diabetes or epilepsy, a nurse will provide education for the child and his family members. School nurses also create "care plans if an emergency should arise," Painter says.

Her list goes on: School nurses also monitor immunization records, scoliosis (curvature of the spine), blood pressure, vision and hearing tests.

Jami Grossnickle, a certified nursing specialist at New Market Middle School in Frederick County, is among the beginners. She has spent her first year counting on her kids "to have something wrong with them - stomachaches, headaches, jammed fingers in gym."

As in past generations, children still rely on "getting sick" to save them from a test or assignment. Grossnickle has regular hypochondriacs who visit her two to three times a week.

So does Bell. "They start in kindergarten," she says of the connivers.

Pub Date: 3/03/97

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