What is a School Nurse?
This is an effort to provide you with a picture of the typical work day for a school nurse. We will begin with a little history so you will have an understanding and, hopefully an appreciation for what it means to be a school nurse. Here in USD 232 the nurses work diligently to keep our students healthy, happy and educated. We hope you enjoy this depiction of what a school nurse really is.
- It all started in 1902, when New York City added nurses to some schools to reduce absenteeism and to control communicable diseases. The demand for and expertise required of school nurses really increased substantially as a result of mainstreaming students with severe physical or chronic conditions. This followed the advent of the 1975 Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA).
- During the last two decades, schools have begun to see an increased number of students with asthma, diabetes and food allergies. New inventions like insulin pumps and Automated External Defibrillators (AED s) required yet another level of training in school buildings.
- Principals and teachers have advocated for nurses as essential partners in the education of children, especially as teacher responsibilities and reporting duties have continued to increase with federal mandates such as No Child Left Behind.
So, what does your USD 232 school nurse do all day? Many people think of school nursing as it was when they were in school. However, just as schools have changed, school nursing has evolved as well. A Health Room was recently described by a new school nurse as a "mini-ER" with triaging being one of the primary reponsibilities of the nurse. New laws, parent expectations, and a culturally diverse student body have resulted in "a day that’s never dull" and in a word, unpredictable.
The School Nurse’s Role
- While working as the solo health care provider in the educational environment, the school nurse performs the obvious duties of medication administration, emergency management, first aid, state mandated immunization monitoring, disease reporting/surveillance, and vision/hearing screenings.
- The nurse is responsible for managing students with a wide variety of chronic diseases. Few people realize that students attending school come not only with conditions like diabetes and asthma, but also with cerebral palsy, celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, scoliosis, arthritis, epilepsy, blindness, deafness, and a host of mental health diseases.
- Skills are required for either direct or in-direct management of students with tracheotomies, tube feedings or catheterizations. This increasingly complex job is all executed while working independently using his/her judgment, education, and experience.
- Much needed support is given to parents while students transition through various growth phases, becoming adults and finding their place in the world.
- As an advocate for children, the nurse works with others in child abuse and neglect cases, obtaining free glasses or dental care for needy students, and as a liaison with community agencies for needed health care and/or surgeries.
- The nurse can present classes on growth and development and/or partner with science, physical education, and other teachers as a resource for all things healthy.
- Adult staff members have access to the nurse as a health resource and for workers’ compensation procedures. By keeping the building population well (arranging flu shot clinics in the schools, etc) and monitoring communicable illnesses, the nurse facilitates achieving the shared goal of academic success.
- Most nurses serve as clinical preceptors for area colleges that need clinic experience sites for student nurses in community health courses. Student nurses spend several weeks in the fall and spring semesters actively applying their knowledge with sick students in the health office under the supervision of the school nurse, who completes evaluations on them.
With all this being said, it is important to note the nurses of De Soto School District are committed to providing excellent health care to our students in an effort to ensure they will receive the best education possible!