Schools face nurse shortage, too

Schools face nurse shortage, too

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NORMAL — School nurses are not in every elementary school every day, and Toby Bryant realized that problem last fall when son Tyler, 6, fell off the monkey bars at recess and broke his arm.

School office workers checked Tyler, gave him ice, tried to comfort him and called his parents. Nurse Jan Murray, wasn’t there — she had left Northpoint earlier to head to Pepper Ridge Elementary, where she also works.

It’s the kind of thing that happens in schools throughout Central Illinois, but Toby and Mindy Bryant decided to make it their business to look into how health emergencies are handled at schools.

Now, first-aid training will be part of a teachers’ institute Feb. 24 in Normal-based Unit 5 and state Rep. Dan Brady, a Bloomington Republican, is checking to see whether any pending legislation would require such training across the state.

"It’s all about the little kids," said Toby Bryant of his family’s activism, which followed the boy’s eventual treatment at a hospital. "We aren’t mad or anything" about Tyler’s accident, he said. "The school responded very quickly."

Unit 5 has added more nurses, despite a nationwide nursing shortage, as the district has grown in size, said Laura Furman, a registered nurse who shares her time between Sugar Creek and Colene Hoose elementary schools.

The district has 11 school nurses.

"When I first came to Unit 5, a nurse was responsible for more than 2,000 students," Furman said. Some were in charge of students at five to seven schools.

Now, the ratio is usually less than half that, she said. Teachers and administrators help fill in when needed.

"They do an excellent job," Furman said.

The Association of School Nurses recommends at least one nurse for every 700 students.

Other districts have made the position full-time because of the expanding duties it demands. Districts with one campus, such as Tri-Valley in Downs and Lexington, usually have one nurse.

Colfax-based Ridgeview School District expanded its nursing job from five-eighths time to full-time in 2005. The extra time is used for bookwork, paperwork and screenings for hearing, vision and dental, said Superintendent Larry Dodds,

In addition, all staff, volunteer coaches and board members have been trained in CPR and how to use the automated external defibrillator, Dodds said.

As for rules at the state level, some people may oppose the idea because it might be another “unfunded mandate” in which schools would be required to follow a law without getting money to pay for it, Brady said.

"We get ideas about (improving) education all the time," he said.


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