Changes in School Nursing Through the Years

by Howard Gerber on July 12, 2018

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school nurse changesSchool nurses play an important role in the well-being of students. School nurses respond to emergencies, provide education, and promote health programs. Similar to many areas of medicine, the job of school nurses has changed in the last decade or two. Continue reading to find out how school nursing has evolved.

Increase in Chronic Illnesses

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the number of children with chronic illnesses is on the rise. The reason for the increase is not fully understood. It appears poor eating habits and lack of exercise is contributing to illnesses, such as diabetes and sleep apnea. But chronic conditions, such as asthma and attention deficit disorder are also climbing.

Regardless of the cause, school nurses are often treating children with chronic conditions including kids with multiple medical problems. The increase in the number of students with chronic illnesses and complex medical needs has made school nursing even more challenging.

A Decrease in Nursing Staff

In the last 10 to 15 years, many schools have cut their budgets. Often first on the chopping block are school nurses. According to the National Association of School Nurses, about 30% of schools surveyed only had a school nurse on duty part-time.

The result is school nurses may be assigned to several schools. A nurse may spend half the day at one school and travel to another for the afternoon. In other instances, a school may only have a nurse on duty two or three days a week. Nurses also may work alone without a health aide.

Unfortunately, the students suffer the consequences. Some students may not get urgent medical care in a timely manner, or health education programs are limited.

Complex Social Issues

Adequate health care is an issue for many families across the country. Some students do not have health insurance, and the school nurse may be the primary source of medical care.

In addition, students are often dealing with complex social issues. Problems with bullying, addiction, and dating violence are not uncommon. Concerns about school violence may also be adding to mental health problems for young people including anxiety.

Expanding duties

The combination of societal changes increased medical needs, and budget cuts have caused school nurses to have more responsibilities. Nurses in school districts across the country are maintaining health records including compliance with immunization rules. School nurses also provide routine and emergency medical care to students. They provide education classes and alcohol and drug prevention programs. In the past, some of these responsibilities may have been split with health education teachers or health aides. But more often school nurses are taking over the work.

Positive Changes

Not all changes in school nursing are negative.  Similar to other professions, technology has also changed school nursing. The implementation of telemedicine allows nurses to consult with physicians more effectively. Digital charting helps maintain efficiency and organization. Better monitoring devices and apps allow school nurses to have information at their fingertips. Improved awareness, medication, and treatments also have improved nursing care.

Many professions evolve as society changes. What changes in nursing have you seen in the last decade? Share with us by commenting below.

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