Providing care, education and preventative services, school nurses are invaluable members of the public health community.
And starting in the 2014-15 school year, increased funding for school health services has enabled school nursing to make its greatest impact in decades. This funding has lowered the student-to-nurse ratio dramatically, resulting in one full-time nurse per school in most cases.
Lincoln Trail District Health Department contracts with three schools districts – Hardin County Schools, LaRue County Schools and Marion County Schools – to provide nursing services. State law requires schools to provide medical care to children who need it in order to attend school. Contracting with the health department is one option for a school district. The Health Department nurses have access to health educators, smoking cessation programs, registered dietician, communicable disease specialists and diabetes educators as well as access to all services provided by the Health Department.
With nurses able to focus on a single school, they are able to make stronger connections with students and achieve better outcomes. The school nurse serves as a familiar, trust-worthy person with whom a child can feel comfortable discussing health issues.
On any given day, a school nurse administers medications, monitors symptoms of chronic diseases such as diabetes, provides first aid and conducts hearing, vision and scoliosis screenings. They also provide health education, from discussing preventative care with parents to helping a child with asthma learn to manage their symptoms. Additionally, school nurses complete fluoride treatments and dental screenings for students age 5 and younger.
These health services translate to academic benefits. In fact, one of our primary goals is to keep students healthy so they can remain in the classroom, ready to learn. Often, that is possible because a school nurse was available to provide simple treatments, such as a Tylenol for a headache that otherwise might have resulted in a student being sent home.
Many students have a chronic disease that requires them to take medication regularly at school or will have to take a short-term medication during school hours for an acute problem, such as antibiotics for strep throat. The school nurse can give these medications and watch for any side effects or other complaints. Medications must be brought to the school nurse in the original container by an adult.
If your child has a prescription medication that needs to be taken at school, please bring it to school in the original bottle with a pharmacy label after the first dose has already been given at home. A second bottle with a pharmacy label will be needed to send medicine on a field trip. A parent or guardian should bring medication to the school, and it should be given directly to the school nurse, so that both the guardian and the nurse sign for it. The school nurse will also need a form signed by the provider who ordered the medicine before it can be given at school. Children with diabetes, asthma, seizures, severe allergies or any other medical condition that might be life-threatening and who have emergency medications from their doctors should have access to the emergency medication both at home and school. Physicians and parents can decide together if the child is ready to keep their emergency medication (such as an inhaler) or if it should be stored in the nurse’s office. The school nurse cannot give any medicine that is expired. At the end of the school year, you will be asked to pick-up extra medicine; the school nurse will throw out any medicine left in the clinic at the end of the school year.
Only students who have a signed consent on file giving permission for medications can receive any medications from the school nurse.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medication can only be given three days in-a-row without the order of a health care provider. If a parent wants their child to have access to an OTC medication that is not provided in the nurse’s office, they can provide the medication in its original container along with a note that gives permission for their child to take the medication.
Chronic Diseases and other Special Health Care Needs
Please tell the school and school nurse if your child has any special health care needs. Students with a history of asthma, diabetes, seizures or a severe allergy should have an Action Plan filled out and signed by their health care provider and the parent. Also, if your child has an emergency medication (inhaler, glucagon, Diastat, or EpiPen), please make sure that there is an extra at the school so that your child can use it during the school day.
Please ensure that the school has a copy of your child’s updated immunization record. If your child needs a vaccine, the school nurse will send home a letter that states which vaccine is needed. The schools follow the CDC immunization requirements for needed vaccines.