Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

21 October 2008

Feeling sick kid? Suck it up

My daughter got some sort of cold the 3rd or 4th week of school. It was something that I thought wasn't bad enough that she needed to stay home, some Tylenol and she seemed much better. We had been thru bouts like this when she was in her pre-school/day care just a few months ago. Well, for two days she was totally wiped out by lunch time. Her fever would spike back up by dismissal around 3 pm and when I would pick her up, she was in very sad shape.

What as the difference?

NO SCHOOL NURSE.

OK, the school does have one, but like many schools in Illinois and around the country, there isn't a full-time nurse anymore.

The Illinois Administrative Code mandates that nurses working at schools must be registered professionals.

The code requires school boards develop and keep a job description of a school nurse's duties.

The code also talks about preventing communicable diseases, maintaining health records, conducting vision and hearing screenings, and acting as a liaison between homes, schools and communities.

It says nothing, however, about requiring a nurse to be a part of a school's staff.

WTF? I still remember dragging my sick butt down the hall to the nurse's room and taking a nap on her padded cot. I remember doing that in freakin' high school! I had heard murmurs of this phenomena for the past few years, but alas, I let myself ignore it until my daughter was hurt by this policy. And all she had was a cold for a few days.

But that's not 100% true.

During her first week she fell when I picked her up, right in front of two teachers and I asked for the nurse. They pointed me to the gym to see if a teacher was in with a first aid kit...Yet there wasn't anyone I could find. I grabbed a wet paper towel with the knowledge that I had a bandage in the car. A few weeks ago she fell again but this time was a gash...to her forehead. Our babysitter picked her up and all the kid had was a wet paper towel. *sigh*

I know it's not the teacher's control and I don't blame them. I blame the system and us for allowing this problem to get this bad. Again, she had a cold and two fairly minor falls. Her head gash healed pretty well. I canNOT imagine what parents do if their child has to take medication on a schedule (I couldn't bring in Tylenol for her to take at lunch, I drove to school to do it). I figure that if my daughter ever breaks her leg, they'll call 911. Alas, I haven't actually asked that question...My bad, I know.

But this isn't about my daughter in the end. It's about all the kids, especially the ones who need more help than a bandage or baby aspirin.

The National Association of School Nurses provides guidelines that one nurse should be provided for every 750 healthy students, one nurse per every 125 students with complex health care needs.

Yet, more than half of public schools across the country do not have a school nurse, according to the association.

In Illinois, a 2008 study by the association found that the nurse-to-student ratio is 1: 2,030.

"We have a lot of people practicing nursing at schools that are not nurses," National-Louis' Gibbons said. "Medication errors in this country are at an all-time high. Research tells us that when non-nurses and aides (are dispensing medication) the rate of error is much higher."

Recent legislation, introduced in June by U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy of New York, would provide grants to states through the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention to improve the nurse-to-student ratio.


Taking this issue even further, it's an aspect of homeland security...If bird flu breaks out, it might be the school nurse who figures it out first. Also with what seems to be a rise in people opting out of vaccinations, measles breakouts could be identified earlier.

But coming back to my daughter, it does make me nervous to know that it could be a matter of luck that a nurse is on duty if something bad were to happen to her. And considering that she runs, climbs, and wrestles without much thought, the chances that something will happen is greater than normal.
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Don't forget that VLF is participating in the DonorsChoose Blogger Challenge. We already have one class funded, let's get that second one funded! The teacher is requesting funding to buy books by women authors. Also don't forget that I'm giving out goodies to a few select peeps who donate!

4 comments:

My daughter was recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and our local public schools do not have nurses on staff. There is one nurse for about 10 grade schools. She has to *try* to get to each kid at lunch time. There are days when she does not work. And if she isn't there, a non-medical person has to try to figure out the insulin injection.

This is not acceptable. The wrong dosage could have severe effects (convulsions, coma, etc.)

So some parents of diabetics in our district spend each and every lunch break going to the school to give their own child their injection.

This is one reason why I am not looking forward to her starting Kindergarten next year.

wow...Given my post, I know this must be happening. I wonder if the IL PTA is working on this issue...research time!

Another example of cutting corners financially without a thought to the repercussions.

CPS is in the process of revising all its school health guidelines - there is a lot of movement (especially in high schools) to co-locate health centers run by local doctors/public health folks. In the past a lot of testing/care was done by volunteers, but my sense is that CPS wants to get a better handle on it.

In the meantime, it doesn't address the HUGE shortfall of nurses in the schools (or nurses in general - whole other discussion) and the impact this has on the safety and well being of all our kids. This is especially of concern for kids that have ongoing medical needs (diabetes, etc...) but also in low-income areas where it is often the school nurse (or teacher sometimes) who is the first line of defense, so to speak, in making sure kids are immunized, identified for early learning issues, health concerns, mandated reporting, etc. Not to mention all the potential hazards in day to day kid life.

This is a larger public health issue - and speaks to the need for access to care for all in multiple levels of society - communities, schools, etc...