Monday, April 9, 2018

Ky. nursing leaders call for a full-time nurse in every school to keep students safe and healthy, and therefore able to learn

Kentucky's nursing leaders are calling on state lawmakers to recognize the vital role school nurses can play "to support student learning in a safe and healthful environment," and are urging them to find "innovative funding" to put a nurse in every school.

"The school nurse is in a prime position to lead this effort but must be present in every school," lead author Kathy K. Hager,  president of the Kentucky Nurses Association, writes in an op-ed for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Only 54 percent of Kentucky's secondary schools have a full-time registered nurse, she notes.

Hager says that nationwide, an estimated 27 percent of students have a chronic health condition and 17 percent experience a mental-health issue each year. In addition, she notes that students are struggling with bulllying, drug-use and gun violence issues.

"In this climate of school violence, along with children’s increasing struggles with physical, behavioral and mental health challenges, much is being debated regarding strategies and resources to support student learning in a safe and healthful environment," Hager writes. She argues that a nurse in every school is the best way to address these needs.

Hager notes that daily access to a full-time nurse as part of the strategy to improve health and safety in schools is supported by the American Academy of Nursing and the American Academy of Pediatrics; the World Health Organization has also identified school health services as an important strategy toward this end.

A recent Academy of Nursing brief on this issue said, “School nurses deliver skilled health care to students, provide referrals to other providers, and assist families in gaining access to specialized care. Yet, despite these undisputed benefits, many schools do not have daily access to a full-time school nurse due to inadequate funding and lack of integration of school health services to the broader health-care system.”

Kentucky adults are overwhelmingly supportive of a law to require a nurse in every school, with 92 percent of them in the latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll saying they supported such a measure.

"We are fully aware of the current budget constraints in Kentucky; however, for the health and welfare of our Kentucky children, we must find innovative funding sources to place a nurse in every school as part of a comprehensive health and education system," she writes. "Contact your local school board and legislators and be the voice your children need. For the health, safety and welfare of our children, every Kentucky school needs a nurse and a comprehensive school health-care plan. Kentucky children are counting on you."

Patricia V. Burkhart, Carol Komara and Lois Davis, who represent the nurses association’s Kentucky School Nurse Committee, also contributed to the the op-ed.

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