School nursing has, to say the least, evolved over the years to keep up with ever-changing student needs. From administering aspirin and allowing a student to lie down on a stiff cot, to managing epinephrine injectors and daily prescription medications, a school nurse is tasked with handling many variables, and each day is unpredictable. It’s a demanding job that not everyone understands, and Larry Jacobs, host of EduTalk Radio gets an honest perspective of what it means to be a school nurse today.
His guest is Donna Maczyck, Executive Director of the National Association of School Nurses (NASN), and she provides insight on how school nurses are able to maneuver their vital role at the intersection of health and education.
Maczyck explains that school nursing began in 1902 as a response to high absenteeism in New York City schools, and that nurses being present in schools still contributes to lower absenteeism, which is connected to lower dropout rates.
The impact of a school nurse goes far beyond absentee rates, though. As Maczyck notes, students come to school and “they don’t park their healthcare needs out the door.” If student health needs peaked at a mild headache every few weeks, there might be less of a concern, but Maczyck cites just a few of the reasons why nurses are invaluable:
- 15-18% of children have special healthcare needs
- About 8% of all children have a food allergy
- 7 million children have asthma
- 13-18% of children/adolescents have some sort of chronic health condition
- 20% of students may have undiagnosed mental health problems that cause difficulty with their academic work
- 1/3 of a school nurse’s time is spent on mental/behavioral health issues
Nurses are present to handle these issues, and to provide a continuum of care ranging from disease prevention, checking immunization records, and dealing with bullying. Outside of direct student contact, Maczyck says nurses work with school staff to plan playground safety and instruct teachers about the health needs at the school. That way, everyone can take better care of the students, and provide the best learning environment possible.
These many roles of the school nurse are a far cry from the original school nurse of 1902. Now, they are a part of students’ everyday lives, they are a part of the school, and they are a part of the community.
To learn more about the role of school nurses from NASN’s Executive Director Donna Maczyck, listen to the archived version of this radio show on EduTalk Radio. To learn about the National Association of School Nurses, please visit their website.