EDITORIAL: School nurse would educate, handle breakout illnesses

Country Day prides itself on being “Sacramento’s first and finest pre-K through 12 independent school.” But there’s one way in which many public schools have the edge on us: school nurses. 

Because the school doesn’t have an official nurse, administrative assistant Erica Wilson and middle school history teacher Bill Crabb have taken on the role previously held by physical education teacher Michelle Myers.

But while Wilson, who is trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and Basic Life Support, has been extremely helpful to sick or injured students (from applying “Band-Aids to wrapping ankles to taking care of bee stings”), she can’t fulfill all the duties of a full-time school nurse. 

First, a nurse could teach classes. We already have sex education and drug and alcohol talks integrated into our middle and high school curricula, but what about nutrition, disease prevention and general health?    

When more than half of girls and about a third of boys from 6 to 8 years old say their ideal bodies are thinner than their current ones (according to Common Sense Media), body image is a topic a nurse could address to younger students.

On top of that, there are illnesses that no one on campus is trained to diagnose, which may result in sending students home unnecessarily. Doing so burdens both students, who miss classwork, and sometimes parents, who might have to come pick up their child.

For example, the flu outbreak that preceded the mid-winter break, when nearly 30 percent of high school students were absent (and many classes were canceled) might have been less severe with a trained nurse on campus. 

A study published in The Journal of School Nursing in 2008, determined that only 5 percent of students seen by a school nurse were sent home, whereas 18 percent were sent home when seen by untrained staff. The nurse assessed and treated the students, thus preventing unnecessary absences.  

And while we do have faculty members qualified to deal with sick students, they don’t have nearly as much training and experience as a registered nurse.

Furthermore, Wilson, Crabb and Myers, all of whom are capable of assuming the role of a nurse, have other responsibilities. When Myers had the first call position, her classes were often interrupted, so she had to leave her students unattended while she inspected an injury. 

A full-time nurse wouldn’t have to worry about administrative work, planning a history lesson or teaching a PE class. 

Obviously, there are two main obstacles to getting a nurse: space and money.

In regard to the latter, as Myers suggested, a few qualified parents might volunteer, sharing responsibilities. 

Even if the nurse/nurses worked only part-time, students and faculty would still benefit from having the support system in place.

And there’s a space problem that needs to be solved since we can’t always resort to quarantining sick students in a conference room. 

Nurse or no nurse, students are going to get sick at school; they shouldn’t have to be supervised by a teacher, thus putting the teacher’s health at risk as well.

A little over two years ago, the Octagon asked for a counselor to help students deal with stress. Even though the budget posed an issue at the time, the school hired guidance counselor Pat Reynolds. 

So now how about a nurse?

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