By Katie Kanner
“As cuts have deepened and essential personnel have been reduced, schools are quickly finding that nurses are a significant component in addressing not only the health needs of students, but also in creating an emotionally and physically safe learning environment,” says School Nurse Practitioner Maggie Beall, who serves in Pennsylvania.
Maggie has witnessed firsthand just how detrimental these cuts have been for students and their access to proper medical care. In some cases, multiple schools share one nurse by means of daily rotations. In other cases, schools are not even required to have nurses on staff.
School nurses serve as strong influences in promoting healthy lifestyle choices and maintaining positive health outcomes for all of our students. More importantly, nurses serve as vital assets in the daily routines for many of America’s students.
Some estimates claim that nearly 25 percent of the student population has a chronic health condition, or CHC. These conditions can range from physical impairments to emotional and developmental disabilities. Children with CHCs may need insulin for diabetes, an inhaler for asthma, or other routine medications. School nurses are the only qualified experts who can care for and evaluate these conditions. So what happens when they’re not around?
“You hear these horror stories of preventable tragedies. Soon schools are going to be held liable; they need to make the investment not only for students’ well-being, but also for their own protection.”
By supporting school nurses, we can keep our students healthy, as well as encourage their overall academic achievement.
“Unfortunately, when these kinds of health barriers are present, it is difficult for students to truly devote themselves to learning. When these barriers are removed, students experience a great deal of success,” says Beall.
Studies show that schools with nurses on staff experience higher graduation rates. Nurses are easily and readily accessible, so students do not have to waste precious class time on long hospital visits. Seat-time in the classroom is increased, and absenteeism is decreased.
Nurses play a critical role in ensuring that schools are healthy places to learn. When all students can live and learn in a positive environment, their future potentials are nothing but improved.