Franklin Countys First News

Letter to the Editor: On the proposed school nursing increase

It is my understanding that the Mt. Blue Regional School District is currently considering increasing the School Nursing Full Time Equivalents from 4.5 to 5.0. As the Mt. Blue Regional School District Physician, I am in full support of this increase. The increase would be extremely beneficial to the health and safety of our students.

As you are aware, school nurses are an essential cornerstone of school culture and school safety. Despite the popular belief that school nurses simply hand out cough drops and give Band-Aids, we know that school nurses play a much more important role in providing a safe and healthy environment for students to learn. School nurses are involved in the following complex and multi-faceted functions that are essential to the health and safety of our students:

1. With the advancement of successful medical interventions, children with complex medical issues are spending more and more time in schools rather than being home-schooled or tutored remotely. As students with complex medical histories and needs continue to enter our district, we must meet their needs by providing complex medical treatments on a daily basis, closely monitor signs and symptoms, and maintain clear and open communication between the school nursing staff and the students’ health care providers. These responsibilities require trained health care professionals (Registered Nurses) to devote focused and skilled time to the care of our students. As the needs of our student population grow, so must our school nursing staff.

2. Increasing school nursing leads to better academic outcomes. It is difficult to effectively learn material, avoid absences, and perform on academic assessments if you are sick and out of school. The goal of the school nurse is to keep their patients healthy first and keep them in the classroom second. With more time spent in the classroom academic outcomes are going to be improved.

3. Increasing school nursing increases school safety. Unfortunately, there are more and more instances of children with unstable mental health conditions leading to mass causalities in school environments. Trained health professionals can better identify the often subtle signs of severe mental health conditions and possibly intervene.

4. Increasing school nursing saves money. A recent cost-benefit analysis of school nursing in Massachusetts reveled that for every dollar spent on school nursing the health care system in that state saved $2.20. The reported increase in school nursing services led to a savings of $20 million in medical care costs, $28 million in parent’s productivity and $129 million in teacher’s productivity losses.

5. School nurses may be a child’s only access to healthcare. As you are well aware, many of our students live in challenging socioeconomic situations and that these students face multiple complex challenges at home. It has been well established that socioeconomic status and health outcomes are directly correlated. For many of these students the chance to see a school nurse is the only opportunity to see an educated health care professional that can help them stay healthy. Many parents struggle with complex therapies and administering them and school nurses can serve an essential role in ensuring students are getting the care that they need.

6. Increasing school nursing allows other educational professionals the chance to perform their jobs. When school nurses are not available to assess and treat this falls on medically untrained professionals such as administrative assistants, principals, and teachers. This is simply UNSAFE. An untrained professional cannot make the same assessments that a nurse or a physician can make. Furthermore, this practice is unfair to the other school based professionals who must take time out of their packed schedules to act as school nurses.

I urge the board to consider increasing the number of school nursing FTEs from 4.5 to 5 as it is essential for the health and safety of the students in the Mt. Blue Regional School District. I would also encourage community members to support this increase in upcoming budget discussions.

Ryan J. Whitt, MD
Franklin Health Pediatrics

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

6 Responses »

  1. As a parent of a child with asthma and severe, life threatening food allergies, I could not agree more!

  2. As a parent of three children (one in each school) I rely on our Nurses a great deal. My daughter has epilepsy and many other ongoing issues that require daily medication with frequent adjustments. Kim has been through it all with my family, from daily seizures for months on end to med reactions that caused my child to need close monitoring. She has spent days running from one school to the other for my children alone. Kim is a godsend and although the teachers are so amazingly supportive, my children NEED actual medical care at school on a daily basis. Our needs and the needs of many other families require and depend on full time nursing staff.

  3. Is this nursing provided at no extra cost to the users?
    Do the families of these kids share in the extra costs in any way?

  4. Yes Comrade Whitt, the taxpayers still have some loose change. It must be taken for socialism to succeed.

  5. Capt. What Planet do you actually live on?

  6. Since the medical community presently pays no tax to support the schools perhaps they would consider making a small tax exempt donation to the District to help defray some of the Federally mandated costs including but not limited to expanded nursing care in the schools. How about one quarter of what the facility would owe if it was not tax exempt - say $600,000? That certainly would help the District.