School Nurses’ Duties Expand with Changing Times

The Boy Scout motto of “be prepared” equally applies to today’s school nurses, who not only deal with the typical bruises and tummy aches that have always been part of school life, but must now contend with a student population that is increasingly more medically fragile.

As school systems face budget cuts, nurses must also adapt to a “migrant” lifestyle as they are assigned to several schools during a workweek.

“There have been a lot of changes in the last 20 years,” said Pamelia Hamilton, community health nurse consultant and school health coordinator for the Brevard Department of Health, which supervises the 160 nurses and health technicians who serve public schools in Brevard County.

According to the National Association of School Nurses, a third of all school districts reduced nursing staff in the past year because of the recession, and a quarter of all school districts in the nation don’t have nurses. In these districts, medical emergencies are typically handled by a school’s front office staff, the way they were in Brevard until the late 1980s, when nurses were first introduced to local schools.

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