Sunday, August 18, 2013

Love THIS Nurse

by Leann

It's time for the kids to head back to school, a time that I remember well both as an excited child and then as a school nurse for twenty years. Unfortunately, there is a sad and scary trend happening across this nation. We are cutting vital personnel from school staffs to save money. Having a professional nurse in every school, five days a week, is the ideal. It could save lives. Instead, we are sacrificing children's health and safety for a few bucks.

I once had a gentleman ask me, while I was still employed in the school district, this question: "What the heck do YOU do all day?" The tone was sarcastic and condescending. It upset me. Thing is, he wasn't even interested in the answer--only his own opinion.

What does a school nurse do? Just about everything. And if that nurse works in a Title 1 school where the amount of children on free or reduced lunch is staggering s/he is challenged every day to help children, some of whom have never seen a health professional in their life. I worked in one of those schools. I did normal nurse things like administered medications, monitored children with chronic diseases like diabetes and asthma, catheterized or tube fed handicapped children with congenital problems, responded to medical emergencies like fractured bones, serious accidents to eyes, ears, puncture wounds, concussions ... well you get the idea. I saw a lot of blood, bone, vomit and pee over those twenty years. Add a
flu epidemic on top of all that and it makes for a very busy day for one person. I screened every child for dental, vision and hearing problems and as they got older looked for possible impending scoliosis. Scoliosis can be treated with back braces or surgery if caught in time. But ONLY if caught in time.

I also kept orange juice, snacks, clean underwear and socks, dry clothes, and all manner of first aid supplies in my clinic. The food and clothes? I had to ask for help to supply those and at times I just bought new underwear and socks on my own. I also checked every child's shot record to makes sure they were up to date so that OTHER children would be safe. And I referred more kids than I could ever count to specialists for what often turned out to be dangerous health problems. I went to the funerals of children who died of cancer, I made sure we got lice treatment for families who could not afford it and every now and then I actually got 30 minutes for lunch. Best part of the job? I gave and received lots and lots of hugs.

If you honestly believe all of those things (and more that I could name) can be delegated to a non-professional, I would heartily disagree. Yet that is what is happening across America. If you have any say in what goes on in your school district, whether you have children going to school or not, use your voice. Protest any change that might result in even one child dying because someone did not have the education and training to prevent that death. And education and training does NOT mean a 6 week course in administering medication. I had to take college classed in pharmacology as well as follow-up classes in side effects, administration and MORE pharmacology. That course work took a lot longer than 6 weeks.

Please help save a child's life if you can. And thanks for reading about an issue that is very close to my heart.