Since its founding in 1964, the school has never had an official school nurse. Do we need one?
Sophomore Bri Davies, who has missed 68 classes this year because of illness, thinks we do. She said that it is strange that SCDS doesn’t have a registered school nurse when most schools, such as Jesuit High School and Rio Americano High School, do.
Junior Leo Eisner de Eisenhof, co-president of the Pre-Med Club, feels the same way.
He said that when he transferred to Country Day from The Village School in Houston, Texas, this school year, he was “extremely” surprised that the school didn’t have an official nurse.
“I asked (chemistry teacher Victoria Conner) within one of my first days, ‘Where’s your (school) nurse?’” Eisner said.
Assuming it was illegal for a school to not have an official nurse, Eisner said he looked it up but found that it wasn’t.
Nevertheless, he said the school needs one.
“I don’t think I could’ve gone through elementary school without a nurse,” Eisner said.
“Because of recess, I got scratched up, and (there was) a bunch of blood. At the sandbox, someone threw a bunch of sand in my eye, and the school nurse helped clean it out.”
However, administrative assistant Erica Wilson, who is trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and Basic Life Support (BLS), said that she fulfills all the duties of a school nurse.
“(I do) anything (from) Band-Aids to wrapping ankles to taking care of bee stings and anything you would normally go to have taken care (of),” Wilson said.
“I say to parents all the time (that) I’m the school nurse. Because it’s really true.”
Wilson also said that middle school history teacher Bill Crabb can help in emergency situations. Formerly a Wilderness First Responder and a CPR/AED/First Responder instructor, Crabb is BLS and CPR trained and will take a Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician course in June.
But even with these certifications, Crabb said he and Wilson cannot completely cover the job.
“When we think of school nurses, we think (of) bandages, thermometers, ice packs and over-the-counter medicine,” Crabb said. “All of these examples are already covered on campus without a nurse.
“(However), a nurse provides things we don’t (immediately) think of – for example, preventative screening, immunization, referrals and interventions.”
Nurses are important for children who don’t have access to healthcare options, so SCDS isn’t in need of an official school nurse, according to Crabb.
“Our demographics don’t include those most at risk,” Crabb said.
Eisner disagrees and said many students are on scholarship and get medical tests less often.
And a Feb. 13 Octagon poll of 105 high school students suggests that he is correct.
Most (66 percent) said they had general physical exams once a year (11 percent said they have them multiple times a year, and 10 percent said they have them every two years).
But 11 percent said they rarely have them, and 2 percent said they have never had one.
Moreover, Eisner said he has never had an auditory (hearing) test outside of school.
The Village School administered vision and auditory tests twice a year for the students in grades K-12, a model he thinks Country Day should follow.
In the poll, 35 percent said they rarely had auditory tests, and 14 percent said they have never had one.
Annual vision tests were more common; 16 percent said they rarely had eyesight tests, and 2 percent said they have never had one.
But junior Emily Hayes, co-president of the Pre-Med Club and Emergency Medical Responder certified, said that semiannual visual and auditory tests aren’t necessary.
“People usually get them when they need them, not preventatively,” Hayes said. “It’s not like heart attack screening where if you don’t do it, something really bad could happen.
“We have glasses, we have hearing aids, and you can’t really do anything preventatively if you find something wrong.”
These exams should be decided on by families and their physicians, according to physical education teacher Michelle Myers, who filled Wilson’s caregiving position for about 25 years. If Myers or other teachers are concerned about a student’s sight or hearing, they request that the student is tested, Myers said.
Although Myers still helps injured students, she said she started to step down a year ago from the position she named the “first call.”
Since she plans to retire in a few years, she didn’t want to pay to renew her certifications and told the school she wouldn’t be the “first call,” so Wilson and Crabb have stepped up to the role.
“It’s really hard for me to turn the kids away, but it’s a lot (of work),” Myers said.
The “first call” position isn’t a paid one, according to Myers, which is something she said the school should consider. However, Myers said that it would be beneficial to the students, as well as the school, to have an official nurse who was always on hand. Since it would be their primary job, they would be able to instantly be there for an emergency.
Many instances each year would be worthy of a nurse, Myers said, including bone fractures, fainting and illness.
Although Myers is trained in sports medicine, she can’t diagnose illnesses.
“Obviously, someone who has advanced nursing skills and EMT (training is) going to be able to do things that some of us can’t,” Myers said.
Qualified parents who are minimally practicing could volunteer a few times a week to take the place of a school nurse, Myers said.
In order to make it a full-time job, Myers suggested a health and safety class for the lower or middle school.
“That’s part of the curriculum in a lot of schools,” Myers said. “You teach the kids about brushing their teeth (and) how to clean wounds.
“That way it’s kind of twofold: you have the education going on, but you also have someone on campus who, if you need them, they’re there.”
These health classes could also include lessons on body image.
“More than half of girls age 6 to 8 indicate their ideal bodies are thinner than their current body,” according to Common Sense Media. It also reports that one-fourth of children have dieted in some way by the time they’re 7.
A senior girl said that poor body image continues to plague lower school students as it did when she was in lower school.
“It’s surprising that little kids have this unhealthy obsession with their body,” she said. “It’s important to be conscious of being healthy and being strong, but they’re focused on whether you’re skinny or not.”
This obsession can start at age 8 and only worsens in middle and high school, she said.
Although counselor Pat Reynolds teaches lessons on health and body image to middle school students, there are no such classes for lower school students, head of lower school Christy Vail said.
Body image is addressed during the students’ puberty talk in fifth grade because these issues typically arise during puberty, according to Vail.
“But woven all through (SCDS’s) social (and) emotional learning that we do in lower school is being kind to others (and) yourself (and) not making comments on another person based on the way they look,” Vail said.
If lower school students express concern over their appearance, teachers use that moment to teach their students about body image issues, according to Vail.
The senior said that catching self-deprecating behavior early is better than waiting until middle or high school, when students may already be anorexic or bulimic.
“Just having expert advice on how you get kids to be more comfortable and more confident (is) better because I don’t know what to tell them,” she said.
Teaching parents how to respond to children’s comments would help, too, because parents often don’t know how to, she said.
“There’s no easy way to say ‘No, you’re not fat’ and ‘It’s OK if you were fat,’” she said. “It’s not an easy discussion, so sometimes parents will just (say) ‘No, you’re not, and don’t even think about that ever again.’”
Head of school Lee Thomsen said that a qualified parent could be the school nurse, although there may be a question of liability.
But even if the school could find that volunteer, Thomsen said he wouldn’t know where to put the nurse’s office.
“Unfortunately we don’t really have a space (for someone throwing up),” Thomsen said. “There was a time last year (when) we had someone who we had to quarantine into a conference room because they were pretty sick and miserable. That’s about the only space we really have that’s out of the way.”
In fact, a closet behind Wilson’s desk held a bed for sick students, but around 10 years ago it was converted into a storage closet, she said.
When junior Gabi Alvarado came down with several symptoms, including chest pain, difficulty breathing and shivers, she lay on the sofa in the main office with Wilson attending her.
Alvarado said that Wilson did everything that could’ve helped her.
“Erica (Wilson) and I are friends, so it was nice to have her there,” she said.
But when sophomore Emme Bogetich became sick, she waited on the benches outside the main office for her mom. Bogetich said that there should be a designated place for sick students to wait indoors.
“A lot of people go into the main office, so having the sick students wait there would spread illnesses quicker,” Bogetich said.
Along with lack of space for a school nurse, the budget may not allow for one either.
“Having one is kind of a luxury,” Thomsen said. “If you can afford it, and you have space, it’s obviously a great, wonderful resource to have because then people who aren’t necessarily medical professionals are helping to take care of sick kids.
“But given the restrictions of budget and space, it’s hard to do.”
—By Larkin Barnard-Bahn