Schools nurses are community assets The roles of all...

Letters

April 28, 2002

Schools nurses are community assets

The roles of all school system staff have changed through the years, but perhaps none has changed more dramatically than that of the school nurse. Yes, school nurses are still called upon to come to the aid of the student with a scrape or sore throat, but in today's world, they are involved in much more than ever before.

There are currently 46 nurses in Carroll County Public Schools. Each nurse sees an average of 60 to 90 students per day. Ninety to 95 percent of these students are treated and return to the class ready to learn. Fortunately, our student population is generally a healthy population. However, approximately 13 percent of our students are identified with chronic health problems. On an annual basis, school nurses see 850 to 1,000 serious illnesses or injuries every year. A serious injury/illness is defined as one that requires immediate follow-up attention by a physician or in the hospital emergency room.

Nebulizer treatments and tube feedings are two examples of procedures that are now routine for the school nurse. The nursing staff also evaluates and provides care for injuries and acute illnesses, as well as assisting in the medical maintenance of students with chronic health conditions. Asthma and diabetes, along with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), are the biggest health management issues facing our school nurses. They are also responsible for administering all medications while students are in school. This includes both prescription and over-the-counter medications. In addition, as our society becomes more complex, nurses are treating more students with special needs and stress-related illnesses.

School nurses take a holistic approach to students. They are concerned about the entire well-being of the child. In addition to their many duties, school nurses are involved in presenting workshops for students and staff on health-related topics and organizing activities such as Jump Rope for Heart and health fairs. They work closely with the guidance department and are involved in promoting the importance of character education and providing support for student assistance and student safety teams. School nurses also work with cafeteria and facilities staff to ensure that students with special needs are receiving any special care they may need to allow them to be as independent as possible.

School nurses are also a valuable resource for parents. They not only work with individual students, but with their families as well. For example, they assist families to ensure that all children have adequate health insurance. They also provide parents with assistance in obtaining physician referrals and making sure students get the proper prescription medications.

The nursing staff works in a cooperative manner with the Carroll County Health Department and other agencies in the community such as the Department of Social Services. The Carroll County Health Department provides hearing, vision, and scoliosis screening for students. They also assist school system staff in developing health-related procedures. They work with the school system to make sure that students are receiving adequate care and that follow-up takes place as needed.

Community Health Nurses are available for consultation and community case management when needed. The Carroll County Health Department also provides a walk-in immunization clinic to assist parents in obtaining the immunizations necessary for school admission.

School nurses also find themselves dealing with the typical growing pains of children. A child may have a bump or a scratch, but may need someone to talk to more than they need medical attention. That is why school nurses try to focus on the entire child. Students cannot be productive in the classroom if they have problems distracting them from learning.

The role of the school nurse plays a crucial part in the education of students. They provide a support role that helps to make sure students are ready to learn and ready to be independent when they graduate. The goal of the school nurse is to make sure students become happy and healthy contributing members of our community.

For additional information on school health services, contact the Supervisor of Health Services at 410-751-3124, the Carroll County Health Department at 410-876-4900, or your school nurse.

C. Scott Stone

Hampstead

The writer is a member of the Board of Education of Carroll County.

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