School nurses do more than take child’s temperature
Head nurse describes duties to Bay Ridge education panel
School nurses do a lot more these days than just take a student’s temperature and dispense aspirin. The nurses working in New York City schools do such things as offer first aid, train people in the proper use of an Epi-Pen and screen children for mental issues like depression.
Gail Adman, RN, deputy director of school nursing at the Office of School Health, who was the guest speaker at a meeting of the Community Education Council (CEC) of School District 20 on Wednesday night, offered the public a glimpse of life as a school nurse.
The Office of School Health is a joint program of the departments of Education and Health and Mental Hygiene.
Adman, who oversees school nurses in all five boroughs, told CEC members that the duties and responsibilities of nurses include monitoring the “physical, emotional, social and environmental health of students in public and private schools.” There are approximately 1,600 nurses in New York City schools.
The goal is to keep children healthy because “a healthy child learns better,” Adman said at the meeting, which took place at P.S. 264 at 371 89th St. in Bay Ridge.
School District 20 covers Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights and includes parts of Bensonhurst, Borough Park, and Sunset Park.
Nurses provide first aid, dispense medications, perform cauterizations, adjust feeding tubes, apply eye drops, give oxygen and apply topical skin cream when necessary, Adman said.
Adman cautioned, however, that none of these activities take place unless there is a physician’s order in place. A physician’s order is a written document from the child’s private doctor authorizing the school to give the specific treatment.
Nurses cannot even dispense aspirin without a physician’s order, according to Adman. “Any medication, even Tylenol or Motrin, needs a physician’s order,” she told the CEC.
But there is still a lot that nurses can do to ensure the health and well being of the city’s 1.2 million school children, Adman said.
Nurses offer health education for students with asthma through the Open Airways for Schools program. Asthma is the leading cause of student absences, according to the Office of School Health.
Nurses conduct Zumba classes to help kids stay in shape and combat obesity. Nurses oversee the city’s Screening To At-Risk Students (STARS) program to screen children for depression. Nurses are also responsible for maintaining medical records.
Nurses are always encouraging parents to take their children for regular doctor’s visits. And if a parent can’t afford it, the school can arrange to have a doctor examine the child. “The school physician can do it if the parent cannot afford to take the child to the doctor,” Adman said.
The number of nurses assigned to a school is not based on the school’s overall population, but on the number of students with health issues, Adman said. For example, a school with 1,500 students but with no youngsters with health issues would have fewer nurses than a school that has 500 kids but has many students in need of services. “You might have a school that has a smaller population but has 10 children with diabetes,” she said. “Schools are reviewed once or twice a year to see how many nurses you need.”
Original version of the article had an incorrect location for the CEC meeting. The meeting took place at P.S. 264.
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