Only 15 states and the District have one nurse for every 750 students, a standard that advocates consider optimal for a school whose kids have average medical needs. (Virginia does not make the cut; Maryland is close, at one nurse per 776 students.) And there is an increasing number of students who require special medical attention: kids with cancer, heart disease, severe allergies and more. For them, “the school nurse is the primary contact,” says Murray.
On a typical school day, school nurse Sandi Delack sees 40 to 50 students at Ferri Middle School in Johnston, R.I. Five to 10 of the visits are for injuries, such as a finger slammed in a locker. Up to half the visits are for emotional or mental health issues that present as physical maladies.
“They have a headache or a stomachache, and you find out they have issues at home or problems in school,” says Delack.
Last school year, Delack also oversaw eight children who had to take daily medication, mostly for conditions such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression or anxiety.
Bailey Brayton, a seventh-grader who received a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes about six years ago, was one of her daily visitors. When he arrived, he would pull out the plastic container containing his insulin, test strips, test kit and snacks. Although he could inject himself, Delack was there to oversee the process and decide if an abnormal glucose reading warranted a call to his parents.
Bailey is more self-sufficient now than when he was younger, but his mom, Jessica Brayton, is grateful to have a trained medical professional on hand at school. “If there was no nurse, I’d have to oversee it,” she says. “It’s like having a second mom at school.”
This column is produced through a collaboration between The Post and Kaiser Health News. KHN, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health-care-policy organization that is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. E-mail: email@example.com