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School nurses play an important role

By Margaret Hayden

Today we recognize our school nurses by celebrating National School Nurse Day as a way for others to better understand the role school nurses play in an educational setting.

The role of our school nurses is probably one of the most misunderstood. In the Oxford School District, we are fortunate to have a nurse in every school: each school nurse in our school district is talented, professional and passionate about what they do.

Children today experience more chronic health conditions — asthma, diabetes, food allergies, mental health  and more particularly in our state. Our children are experiencing these conditions more than ever before. The prevalence of chronic social, emotional and other health problems increases on a daily basis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), asthma is the leading chronic illness among children and adolescents in the United States. Further, childhood obesity has more than doubled in the past 30 years.

Today, roughly 1 in every 400 children has type 1 or type 2 diabetes. According to a study released in 2013 by the CDC, food allergies among children increased approximately 50 percent between 1997 and 2011. On a daily basis, we help develop, implement and monitor individualized health care plans for these students.

In many cases, our offices are the only place children receive health care. The school nurse role is unique from other nursing positions because we are the sole health care providers on our school campuses. When an emergency arises, there is no doctor or nurse practitioner to call on.

The variety of roles that we take on in our schools is endless. Coming to work every day is an adventure. It begins for many of the nurses with children coming in the office upon arrival at school for their scheduled daily medications which continues throughout the day.

The elementary students may need a hug, a Band-aid for a scrape, their temperature taken or their head checked for lice. At any age, our students, at some point may need minor first-aid care for cuts, scrapes or nosebleeds. They may need their eyes, ears or throats examined.

These are the things we expect in this job; however, it’s the other things we do that many others do not consider. We deal with regular asthma attacks, seizures, diabetic highs and lows, chronic migraines, g-tube feedings, catheterizations, pregnancies, STDs, anaphylactic allergic reactions, head injuries, and panic attacks.

When students know that you care about them and that they can trust you, you become the person they talk to regarding the good, the bad, and sometimes, the ugly; with this comes great responsibility. We end up counseling students about all forms of abuse and bullying. The outcome can end in writing reports to the department of human services and calling parents to help students deliver tough news.

At the end of the day, we improve the general health of staff by acting as health care and support for all of our employees. We monitor blood pressure, provide flu shots, monitor blood sugars, give out medications and advice for teachers and staff. We handle employees’ injuries and workman compensation information. Also, we communicate with staff about the medical and emotional needs of their students.

Margaret Hayden is the head school nurse for the Oxford School District. She can be reached at mehayden@oxfordsd.org.