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.

19 comments:

Liz Straw said...

As a former teacher, I so know how important school nurses are and wish there were one in every school. I have seen children with major asthma attacks and just the normal being sent to school while being too sick to be there because it was easier than hiring a babysitter. My niece, now very grown up was picked up off a playground with a broken leg and it separated. No nurse in the school and the sat her in a chair instead of having her lie down, she spent a month in the hospital and a couple of months in a body cast at home. My brother said he would not sue the school (very kind of him) if every teacher in the school took a first aid course and they did! I suspect his insurance company made the school corporation pay for the neglect however. I <3 school nurses!

SueAnn said...

My son had a school nurse from preschool to 8th grade, when he went to the HS, no nurse! They used coaches for the nurse! I was very upset at this school...but many parents thought I was old fashioned! In the first grade, he fell off the jungle gum and cracked his wrist and a NURSE took care of him until I got there....in HS, in wrestling, he wrenched his knee.....the coach had him "sit to the side" until I got there..offered no help to him....no ice, no elevation, nothing! A school nurse is a mom! Just as there are busy days at home, and boring days, slow days...it is the same at the schools too......but the brain never rests.......always has to be "on".....and that is no different than being at home..or in any other job...except, the school nurse has about 500 more kids during the day!!

Aurian said...

That sure sounds busy Leann, but when I went to school, there was no such thing as a school nurse. If something happened, the concierge would take you to the doctor or the ER, if a child is too sick, the parents are called. Of course, that is over 20 years ago, but I don't think there is such a thing as a school nurse now. But I also think our schools are probably not as big as yours.

Leann Sweeney said...

Thanks Liz. I always hope it doesn't come to a serious problem before parents and teachers and administrators stand up for their nurses who are ready and PREPARED to deal with something like your niece experienced. I once flagged down an ambulance on the street because I had a child with a compound fractured leg WAY OUT on the playground. Thank goodness they were driving by and didn't think I was a nut job when I screamed at them to stop! :-)

Leann Sweeney said...

Ah yes. I am familiar with the "athletic trainer used as a nurse" problem. Problem is, they aren't TRAINED to deal with real medical emergencies beyond simple sprains and fractures. I am shaking my head, remembering the arguments we had with administrations who thought athletic trainers could handle sports injuries better than nurses.

Leann Sweeney said...

Well, in my case, children OFTEN came too sick to be in school. Doesn't mean their parents would rush from their job or home to take them home. Sometimes their boss wouldn't let them leave and they had to find someone else to come. I once held a child in my arms for 4 hours who had a 105 temperature while I waited on the parent who promised to come. And as I held her, I took care of every other child who came into the clinic. Even back a hundred years ago when I was in elementary school and high school (in NY state) we had a school nurse. Of course those were the dark ages when people hadn't completely lost their common sense yet. :-)

Jeannie D. said...

It is sad that in this country,the safety of our children and grandchildren has all came down to dollar signs and not what is best for them.

Leann Sweeney said...

I guess the deal is that nurses are too busy in their jobs to "advertise" what they are doing day in and day out. That man's question to me years ago, the "What do you do all day?" question says it all. Unless we point out that there are nurses all over this country who are saving lives and doing it with energy and love, nothing will change. Who is advocating for their jobs? Where is the school nurse lobby? There isn't one and there won't be one. And so state legislatures will be making decisions about the lives of children without full knowledge or understanding about the vital role the school nurse plays. It just makes me sad. (And I took a huge pay cut to work in a school rather than a hospital, btw, but I knew I was making a difference there.)

Anonymous said...

Ass a nurse in a K-5 building I thank you for writing this - most of the public do NOT know what nurses in schools do - I sometimes think administration really doesn't know either - and in that is the problem!!

Leann Sweeney said...

Thanks for all you do. And I am sure most people have NO IDEA all you do to help children every day. It is the nature of nurses to just work hard at their job and say little or nothing to others. I hope this blog helps draw attention in some small way.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comments and perspective on school nursing. We worked diligently every day caring for students and their families, faculty and their families as well as folks who just came in off the street because a registered nurse provided skilled knowledgeable health care. I once had a young mom bring her infant into our intermediate school because she knew something was wrong, but didn't know what to do. Of all the nursing roles I've had, school nursing was the most rewarding, fulfilling and frustrating.
It's always good to read your blog. sandie

Leann Sweeney said...

Thanks Sandie (as in someone I worked with??) It's good to make a difference. We did do that. I just wish the powers that be would make choices that put children first.

Rachelle21 said...

I taught for two years and subbed for two districts. It is wonderful that someone has clothes and underwear when needed. I remember accidents I had when in school and could have used a change of underwear. I also have seen children who were not dressed for weather.

Who keeps the medications without a nurse? If someone has a reaction to an allergen - an fast response is needed. It takes time to get an ambulance or a nurse from another building.

Leann Sweeney said...

Medication administration is now being delegated to school secretaries or aides. If I were a school secretary I wouldn't be too happy about that responsibility. As a nurse, we are taught that every medication is a potential poison--and we are taught why and what to look for as far as side effects or reactions. I had a student who was brand new to our school. She was put in a classroom with pet hamsters and had an immediate reaction. Fortunately, we had emergency Epi-pens in our clinics. Don't know how quickly untrained personnel would be to detect the beginning of anaphylactic shock but seconds mean everything. That child was transported to the hospital and back at school the next day--in a pet-free classroom. :-)

SueAnn said...

when I was 9 years old, my mom started me on a series, she was hoping I would follow in the heroine's shoes! It was "Cherry Ames", and she was a school nurse, student nurse, registered nurse, flight nurse, army nurse....it was a long series! She was every kind of nurse!!! I loved those books! While all the other girls were reading Nancy Drew,,I was reading Cherry Ames! I was intrigued by her being a nurse, but I did'nt have the stomach for being a nurse!!! Nursing is not advertised anymore, like it use to be...it is all this "tech aid" stuff..and seriously, I do not trust many tech aids....I don't know how one would go about advocating for nurses, especially in the schools....and it is true...nurses do not say much......they do what they do....quite seriously....But I always call a nurse....to check on things..before I bother a doctor....nurses are no dummies, and they can be VERY helpful in more ways than they get credit for. Maybe you need to write a series with a nurse.....?

Leann Sweeney said...

I remember Cherry Ames! I don't know how to "advocate" for nurses either. Budgets for schools seem to be decided without much input from the community. There is no announcement to parents beforehand that says, "Oh, by the way, there is no nurse in your school anymore. It is just decided upon and done. I don't know how to get a blog like I wrote to go viral either, so parents could be made aware that their children are at risk without a health professional in "communities" we call schools where there are 500 or so little residents present everyday. Frustrating. :-(

Anonymous said...

Yes.

SueAnn said...

Boy....this is a hot topic...school boards in themselves are hot topics!!!!
To go viral..like your post? Start on FB....ask all your "friends" to share the page...you know the domino theory of FB....It is at least, something you could do...
I sat at so many school meetings over the years....dozed thru a lot, knitted thru a lot..read books thru them all!! Parents have to be willing to do that..go to meetings, that are long and boring, and ask questions....and, well...they just don't. If it is not sports related.....they don't listen..I have seen fine arts go by the wayside too....SO many subjects have been tossed aside, along with the employees that would have been the best for the kids....We learned a lot from our school nurse, when I was in school, and when my son was there..she had hygiene lessons, safety lessons, stranger danger lessons, diet- eating the right foods..Our school nurse was a busy one! And, she was one, that the kids could go to....a "safe" adult...someone that would not punish, nor tattle tale, you know how kids are...and she was a great source of info for parents too....I miss the school nurse, the home ec teacher, the industrial arts teacher, the Ohio History teacher( and Ohio wonders why their kids do not know a thing about Ohio!!), the Geography teacher.....there is so much more missing in schools anymore......
I wonder...what the city governments have to say about this? surely, there must be a town somewhere in the USA, that says schools MUST have a nurse...and it comes from the city coffers? Hmm.....counties could mandate it..pay for it, or even States...MAN! The politics that could come form having safety for the kids...instead of a cop with a gun, or teachers with a gun...! You know?....

Leann Sweeney said...

The reason I was hired for my job back in the 80s is because the school district where I ended up working decided to put a nurse in every school--that it was an important expenditure. I was 3-5 nurse only for many years (we had TWO nurses because our elementary school population in our school rose to 1200.) Then the cuts started and I became a pre-K, early childhood (That's THREE-YEAR-OLDs), developmentally handicapped (some arrived to school on stretchers, most were in wheelchairs) and K-5 nurse. We had four pre-K classes in the morning and 4 in the afternoon. That was a lot of kids who needed a lot of care and who were sick all the time. (and peeing their pants regularly! And guess whose job that was?) I do not understand who could ever believe that a nurse is unnecessary in a place where sickness and accidents are the norm. Just sad.