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Colorado State Flag
Sunday, November 29, 2020  

Being a school nurse: It's a love-hate relationshipPublished 8/18/2003

Over the past few months we have talked about inequities within the nursing profession: from LPN’s roles and responsibilities to Union formation blunders.

Today I was reading an article regarding the school nurse. At one point in my nursing career I was a credentialed school nurse and worked for a few months in Douglas County. I had this love/hate relationship with my job. I loved the hours- Monday through Friday 9-2 p.m., loved having the summer off, all holidays, winter break and spring break.

You might think it was rather an easy job, however on some days it was worse than being a floor nurse. As a school nurse, you are solely responsible for all the children in the school; you have to deal with irate parents, who do not wish to be bothered when their child is ill. I have heard comments from parents such as: "I can’t leave work to pick up my child," to "can’t you take care of them, you are a nurse!" I have seen parents bring kids to school with fevers over 100, diarrhea, vomiting, and rashes and assume that I would baby-sit the child, while the parent worked. The school nurse is responsible for maintaining all school health (including immunization) records, hearing and vision screenings, drug administration, and of course dealing with the everyday bumps and bruises that the children get.

Many children have no health insurance and so use the school nurse for health services. Teen pregnancy is so prevalent that many of the high schools are forced to open daycare centers so their students would not have to drop out of school.

The school nurse would therefore be responsible for those babies in the daycare center as well. In addition, did you know that the school nurse takes care of the faculty and staff at the school too? I had one instructor who was on hypertensive medication and yet still ran blood pressures that were dangerously high. He was always in my office with headaches and palpitations. And did I tell you about the paperwork? You think paperwork is overwhelming in the hospitals? Try working in the state system. There is a form for everything. I did all of this and got paid $9 per hour. Yes you heard me correctly, $9 per hour.

Just like the RN who is being replaced by non-professionals in the hospital, so are the school nurses being replaced by clerical personal who attend a few training sessions and, Walla, now are capable of caring for your ill or hurt children.

School nurses have been around for 100 years! School nurses are being asked to service more than one school or risk losing their jobs. Many state budget cuts are eliminating the school nurse job all together.

Who will be responsible for the special student populations who are mainstreamed into regular school programs? Those children have very special needs; some are tube-fed, are on oxygen, and have tracheal tubes, urinary catheters, need insulin injections, and the like.

We are a mighty country. We can defeat many countries in a single bound, but take a closer look at our home front and you see a very different story. Our educational system is secondary to countries such as China and Japan and everyday we hear about new budget cuts to our schools. Children are graduating from high school and can’t read or write. I just registered my children for school and paid out an average of $80 per child in school supplies. Oh and some of those school supplies were not for my kids but for the teachers.

I had to purchase dry eraser markers, erasers, and the like because the school can’t afford teacher supplies. So not only are we loosing school nurses, but we are now being asked to pay for instructor supplies.

What are our legislators doing on the hill? And more importantly, why are we, as a nation, allowing our educational system to fall apart?

Are you a school nurse? How are things going in your district? What do you see as the issues? What can we do as a profession to help you in your fight to keep your jobs? If you could change one thing, what would it be? Share your thoughts and comments with us in my column, In The News.

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