National School Nurse Day is Wednesday, May 11. This unofficial holiday was initiated in 1972 by the NASN (National Association of School Nurses) as a day of recognition. National School Nurse Day is celebrated during National Nurse Week (May 6-12). In honor of this well-earned celebration, Barbara Robertson, RN, Blount County School Nurse Supervisor, would like to remind the community of the vital role that nurses play within the educational system; as well as the programs shortage of funding.
As stated in “Building Strong Children” by Erin D. Maughan, because education is free, but healthcare is not, a heavy weight befalls school nurses. Often times, due to financial issues, they are the only regular medical professional students visit. School nurses often find underlying health conditions in early stages that would not be as noticeable to a teacher or a parent.
According to health assessment summaries of a few of the Blount County Schools for the 2015-2016 school year, an average of about 125 students per school suffer from asthma, approximately nine students per school have heart conditions, and about three students per school have diabetes. Most Blount County Schools only employ one nurse for both elementary and high school students. This creates a very large number of students per school nurse, leaving them to feel very overwhelmed.
“After funding for school programs has been divided up by the state, school nursing tends to always come up short. In the last few years, we haven’t had the funding to cover the salaries of the nurses that we have, so that leaves nothing left over for supplies,” Barbara Robertson stated.“We are very grateful to St. Vincent’s Blount and the Blount County Healthcare Authority for helping us by providing financial support and nursing services.”
A new Anaphylaxis Preparedness Program, applied in August 2015, allows Blount County Schools to keep Epinephrine and Antihistamines on-site – instead of needing a parent to provide them – to reduce the risk of death due to anaphylactic shock. One month after it was implemented, Blount County was the first district in Alabama to have to use the program.
Even with the supplies and extra help, Blount County school nurses are still cash-strapped and in need of funding.“We know that money is tight and everyone has a hand out, but when we think about the health and safety of our children, it’s just a small price to pay,” Robertson tells The Blount Countian.