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School nurses play vital roles in education

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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

attendance.

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

start:

* 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

district office.

* I believe “safe school” money could be appropriately applied to

nursing services. Same with the Bush administration’s “No Child Left

Behind” money.

* 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.

Jill Herbertson

Burbank


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