It’s morning and your kids are at school. Do you know if there is a
nurse on campus?
Chances are, there isn’t one. Did you know that in Cuban schools,
of all places, there is a medical doctor present every single day
children attend school? Where is our commitment to children’s health?
Burbank Unified School District has 16 school sites and eight
registered nurses. If the district follows through on preliminary
layoffs, there will only be four nurses next fall. There are a number
of health assistants that also float between schools.
Some schools have more nursing coverage than others, based on
special-education needs. And some school sites have coughed up the
money that the district hasn’t to add more nursing hours, At all but
one campus, there are times when no nursing staff is present at all.
You’ll have to call your school to find out which particular day you
get the registered nurse. And unless we convince the school board
otherwise, next fall will be a lot worse.
Maybe you’re thinking, “Big deal, what’s a nurse do? Slap on a few
Band-Aids?” My answer: Schools aren’t like they were when you were a
kid. We have medically fragile children at regular school -- kids who
would have stayed in hospitals or at home back in the ‘60s, when a
nurse was actually at school whenever kids were present. These are
kids with seizure disorders, hemophilia, diabetes, life-threatening
allergies and asthma. Many more kids take medication throughout the
day -- medication which should be monitored. We have kids who need
injections. And we still have run-of the-mill kids who get hurt on
the playground or throw up in the hallway. All kids need vision and
hearing screening. We have kids who need health education and
counseling, kids for whom a school nurse is their main health care
provider. Kids who need a nurse’s evaluation for their individualized
educational plans. Kids who could be injured at school during an
earthquake or school shooting or terrorist attack. What have we got?
Part-time nurses, and just barely that.
We have an educational imperative to have nurses at school. A kid
learns better when he’s healthy, and when he can see and hear. Our
highly trained nurses are also “teachers” in our learning communities
who have a unique perspective on a kid’s health. Pragmatically, we
also know that healthy kids do better on tests. Our nurses can help
us keep kids in school, and we know that funding is linked to daily
I believe we also have a community imperative to have nurses at
school. Our city disaster action plan is widely admired and has been
copied in other cities. We can take note that our schools are spread
throughout the city, and I would suggest that in the event of an
earthquake, it would be in the best interest of the neighborhood
communities to have a nurse located at that neighborhood school.
How can we fund the school nursing program? Here are a few ways to
* At the district office, we have a disaster preparation
coordinator. I believe the work of this job could be reassigned to a
school site nurse. In case of an actual disaster, that work could
certainly be done from a school site, and the children’s needs would
be better served by a nurse on campus than an administrator at the
* I believe “safe school” money could be appropriately applied to
nursing services. Same with the Bush administration’s “No Child Left
* I believe we should first consider shortening the calendar year
for administrators before we consider any cuts to the real heroes who
teach and care for our kids. I believe we should eliminate car
allowances and bonuses at the district office. I believe the City
Council should consider applying any possible new federal Homeland
Security funding to our school nursing program. We could then better
integrate those nurses into our city-wide disaster preparation plan,
and we can keep them at school, where they do a world of good every
minute they’re there.