As a nurse and a parent, I was concerned to learn of the Juneau School District’s recent proposal to eliminate 6 out of 10 full time school nurses and to replace them with health assistants as one of the means to deal with the projected budget deficit.
School nurses provide a critical role within each school. School nurses administer medication, check blood glucose levels, put bandages on minor cuts, and care for sick students. Additionally, they have the training and the knowledge to serve as an important safety net for students who may be experiencing violence, emotional problems, or family issues, and they have the expertise to connect students and their families with available community resources. School nurses also monitor the immunization status of children to prevent possible disease outbreaks in schools and the community.
During the 2008 Pertussis outbreak in Juneau, school nurses played a major role in disease surveillance, student and family education, as well as coordinating the effort in vaccinating children against Pertussis. More than 800 doses of Tdap (the combination vaccine for Tetanus, Diphtheria, and Pertussis) were given on Dec. 16 and Dec. 17 of 2009 at Floyd Dryden and Dzantik’i Heeni middle schools thanks to the teamwork of school nurses, their colleagues, community partners, and volunteers.
During the 2009/10 H1N1 outbreak, more than 2,000 doses of free H1N1 influenza vaccines were provided to students in the schools thanks to school nurses working with their colleagues, community partners, and volunteers. The school nurses took a major role in coordinating this effort, educating students and families, monitoring incidence of flu-like illnesses among students, as well as taking care of students for day-to-day needs.
Without the leadership and dedication of our Juneau school nurses, such successful disease outbreak prevention response efforts would not have been possible.
I hope the Juneau School District will reconsider the proposal to eliminate the school nurse positions. I believe that school nurses are vital community assets and valuable resources for our children and families.
Masayo Nishiyama, MSN, MPH, RN