School nurses fear loss of funding

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A proposed $30 million cut to the state's 2010 budget could put school nurses in jeopardy.

If Georgia's General Assembly approves the cut, local school systems would be left shouldering the entire burden of funding the positions.

"Hopefully, we'll be able to maintain funding," said Carol Rountree, Richmond County's director of student services. "I'm hopeful. That's all I can say at this point."

Richmond County has more "medically fragile" pupils than she has ever seen, she said, stressing the need for nurses on staff. Nurses tend daily to children with diabetes, asthma and other ailments requiring regular care and medication.

"Without a nurse, I don't know how we would cover these services," Dr. Rountree said.

At some schools, nurses dispense more than 40 prescription medications each day, she said. A school can't allow children to carry medications around campus, and young children shouldn't be expected to have such a large responsibility, she said.

"It's not going to be an easy cut, if that's where (Gov. Sonny Perdue) decides to cut," Dr. Rountree said.

Controller Gene Spires said the amount Richmond County received from the state this year for school nurses was more than $535,000, about 43 percent of the total cost of the system's 32 nurses.

It wouldn't be easy to absorb a cut that size, Mr. Spires said. If anything, the school system needs more nurses, he said.

Columbia County's head school nurse, Lisa Whitlock, said she has been assured no nurses will be laid off. Senior school administrators have told her that nurses provide a valuable service they can't imagine doing without, she said.

In 2008, schoolchildren visited Columbia County's 19 nurses 92,985 times.

Joanne Giel, the president of the Georgia Association of School Nurses, said she didn't learn of the proposal until seeing it in the budget.

"I was pretty shocked. I didn't think this would really ever occur," she said. "Even with budget cuts, we find we offer a valuable service."

The line item for school nurses is the only item in the Department of Education's budget that is eliminated, she said.

Ms. Giel said nurses are being mobilized to call lawmakers to lobby them to preserve the funding.

As for the chances the money will be saved, "Right now, it's anybody's guess," she said.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (29) Add comment
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icanusethat
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icanusethat 01/25/09 - 07:28 am
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you have to think how often

you have to think how often do kids use the school nurse? some kids use the nurse just so they can go home early and skip school...kids don't use the school nurse like that if your child is sick take them to the doctor.

Riverman1
83902
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Riverman1 01/25/09 - 07:59 am
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If kids"visited" school

If kids"visited" school nurses 92,985 times in Columbia County, we must have the sickest county in the nation. Realistically, I doubt nurses have that much work to do. Schools located close to each other could share a nurse.

msitua
132
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msitua 01/25/09 - 09:30 am
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How come nobody is asking why

How come nobody is asking why nurses are so desperately needed in schools? Childrens' epidemics-autism, asthma, diabetes etc are everywhere in the US. We have fallen down to 30th in the world in infant mortality. Of course we need nurses in everyschool-there are so many sick children nowadays. The government and health officials don't want to ask the important questions---what's wrong with vaccines, genetically modified foods, polluted air and what is this doing to our chidlren? I call it criminal.

arunner
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arunner 01/25/09 - 09:39 am
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As the husband of a school

As the husband of a school nurse, I have seen first hand how important they are. In CC, there are only nurses in the elementary schools and they each have a middle and high school to take care of. The "visits" are only counted when the nurse has to do something like give meds or some type of care for cuts and things. Not every child that complains and wants to go home gets counted as a visit, that would put those numbers through the roof. I would think there is so other place to cut than in the nursing department.

iletuknow
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iletuknow 01/25/09 - 09:40 am
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Due to insurance regulations

Due to insurance regulations nurses have a very limited responsibility at schools.They would be best served working at hospitals.

hangemhigh
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hangemhigh 01/25/09 - 10:19 am
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Perhaps this is a function

Perhaps this is a function that hugh savings could be gained by subcontracting it out to a private sectior facility such as ExpressHealth in Columbia Couty with the County/State paying some min. fee per visit???

Goaliemom1987
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Goaliemom1987 01/25/09 - 10:31 am
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Children visit the nurse for

Children visit the nurse for everything, from a band aid to a Tylenol. The school nurse has to keep a record of everything she does.We have several diabetic children and children that require medicine daily.No we don't have the sickest children in CC just grateful we have a nurse that can give a sick child some TLC because we know the state is asking the teacher and parapro's to do even more and taking care of a sick child is not part of it. In CC the school nurse is already shared with another school.

gnx
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gnx 01/25/09 - 11:18 am
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When you divide the number of

When you divide the number of nurse visits by the number of students (approx 22,000) enrolled last year in CC schools it does look like we've got a bunch of little sickies in our schools with roughly 4.25 visits to the nurse per child. Maybe the school needs to begin charging parents for using the school nurse to dispense prescription meds or provide specialized nursing care beyond meds to students requiring it. Education is required to be provided by the CCBOE to all students, but medical care beyond a bandaid or tylenol should be the responsibility of the parents of the child. Charging the parents a nominal fee for services used would offset the BOE's expense and allow for nurses to remain in place in the schools.

Just My Opinion
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Just My Opinion 01/25/09 - 11:24 am
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People who are making some of

People who are making some of these comments are basing them on when they had gone to school, years ago. Believe me, things are TOTALLY different now. There are so many more "special needs" children who are being mainstreamed into the schools now that require special attention that a nurse, not a teacher or a school secretary, should be giving. They have children who are in need of insulin shots, insulin pump determinations, in-and-out urinary catheterizations, colostomies, dressing changes, etc.. And those are just some of the daily/routine procedures that need to be taken care of. That does not include the diabetic shocks, the seizures, dehydration issues associated with the -ostomies, that can and do take place. Now, tell me...if YOU were the parent of one of these special needs children, would you want an untrained, unsupervised teacher, school secretary, or principal to care for your child when he had to have it? Look, any of those school nurses would quickly tell you that they are a bargain for the school system (and the system knows this!), because they don't get paid squat! My wife is a teacher and I shudder to think of her being involved in a lawsuit for negligence.

SandyK2005
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SandyK2005 01/25/09 - 11:30 am
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"At some schools, nurses

"At some schools, nurses dispense more than 40 prescription medications each day, she said. A school can't allow children to carry medications around campus, and young children shouldn't be expected to have such a large responsibility, she said." ----- Downfall of Western civilization, when kids are no longer responsible even in taking their own meds. We baby our kids, and then wonder why when they're 18, they're as inmature as 12 years-olds. At one time I had like 8 different medications with the school nurse, I never expected them to dispense them for me, but the school required the meds being given to the nurse. The difference then was I had to be responsible to take them (especially antibiotics for 2 weeks). Now are the medicos even taking that away, as kids no longer should be responsible? When you're responsible (or just plain tired of bad healthcare) you search for what can help -- now the PDR is my help on medications. It started when I was in high school learning why and how I needed to take those meds, in the first place.

TechLover
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TechLover 01/25/09 - 12:02 pm
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Where'd you get the Ritalin?

Where'd you get the Ritalin? there's a kid at the school with a whole bottle of them. Anti-seizure meds(Phenobarb,etc). That's great stuff to have kids carrying around in their pockets. I',m a Registered Nurse,(not a school nurse nor do I have kids so I don't have an agenda) and not having a school nurse sounds like a big legal liability for the school district.

disssman
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disssman 01/25/09 - 12:06 pm
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arunner you forgot to menyion

arunner you forgot to menyion how much the taxpayers are paying for these dispensers of bandaids. Just my opinion, your last sentence is the very reason school nurses do not really make medical determinations beyond calling the parent and having the kid picked up.

gnx
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gnx 01/25/09 - 12:12 pm
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Tech - that's a great example

Tech - that's a great example of why parents should be the ones responsible for their children's well-being and health; yet some of them feel the rest of us should bear that responsibility in their place. Schools should not have to be liable for damages if Junior or Missy is caught wandering the halls with a full bottle of meds. Parents should be the ones monitoring their children's medication consumption. There are many good parents who do, but there are many bad parents who don't. Those parents not monitoring their children's medication consumption, allowing them to carry their full pill bottles around, need to be charged accordingly.

crackertroy
540
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crackertroy 01/25/09 - 12:59 pm
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To me, removing the nurse
Unpublished

To me, removing the nurse would remove a lot of distractions from the classroom. The students always want to go see the nurse, many times for ailments the nurse can't even help them with (i.e. "I have a headache, can I go see the nurse?" when the nurse is not allowed to give medicine without parental consent anyway). I just tell the kids that the nurse can't help them and to get back to work. The cases of insulin shots and so forth are few and far between. There should be a nurse to make visits for those special circumstances, but every school does not need a nurse.

SandyK2005
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SandyK2005 01/25/09 - 01:05 pm
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"Anti-seizure

"Anti-seizure meds(Phenobarb,etc)." ----- You're showing your age, TL, as it'll be more likely drugs like Tegretol. ;) Kids wouldn't want to take that as there's no "high" (let alone due to it's dangerous side-effects).

arunner
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arunner 01/25/09 - 02:37 pm
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disssman, my wife has her BSN

disssman, my wife has her BSN and works in the school system because she loves the kids. She makes half of what a teacher makes and we know that is not much. If they were to get rid of nurses, they are just asking to get sued for millions of dollars. You got to love people who make statements who have no idea what people do. My wife has several severely disabled students with problems that a normal teacher or secretary would be scared to mess with without the proper education.

aaa
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aaa 01/25/09 - 02:38 pm
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This is a clear example of

This is a clear example of how you can grow government to the point that it fails. If you create a need (program) you must then fund that need. It then grows exponentially as the public simply accepts the program (need) as customary and necessary - without question. When I was growing up, I had several classmates with various medical problems. They survived their problems and went on to lead productive lives. We didn't have a school nurse and we didn't have an out-of-control county school budget.

Just My Opinion
5629
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Just My Opinion 01/25/09 - 02:59 pm
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Standing Tall, you have to

Standing Tall, you have to admit that you also did not live in such a litigious society. Nowadays, parents of "special need" children are very legal-savy and know that they have rights. If they feel their child's needs aren't being met by the teacher or the school in general, they obtain an advocate and push their "demands" through until their child is taken care of. You think that these folks aren't going to sue if their child has a anaphylactic reaction and the teacher and school secretary can't diagnose it soon enough and the child dies? You damn right they would, and so would I! The point is, when they are in the school's environment of care, that care must be met when it's needed. As far as your comment on the growth of government, I'm not going to disagree with you...I see what you're saying. However, in this case, I see it more of a legal and an ethical issue. I think the parents of ALL special needs children should stand up and scream to their responsible politicians about this and demand that the nurses retain their positions and responsibilities. Don't pawn yet another thing off on the teachers and expect them to still do their job well!

SandyK2005
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SandyK2005 01/25/09 - 03:11 pm
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"You think that these folks

"You think that these folks aren't going to sue if their child has a anaphylactic reaction and the teacher and school secretary can't diagnose it soon enough and the child dies? You damn right they would, and so would I!" ------ You're arguing your very argument. Read it carefully, especially the last sentence. So many claim it's the parents responsibility and all, but when parents are Ying and Yang on the very issue they're complaining about, guess how the kids will turn out?

shockproof
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shockproof 01/25/09 - 05:30 pm
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Many excellent points and

Many excellent points and truths have been posted by those who understand the need for nurses in schools. Sadly, those whose comments are otherwise are grossly ignorant and speak with arrogance and/or misunderstanding. I am assuming all remarks are posted by adults. If students could and would address this issue, the scenario would be complete. I speak for the children. "I want and need a nurse to be working in my school."

SandyK2005
1
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SandyK2005 01/25/09 - 05:45 pm
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"I speak for the children"

"I speak for the children" ----- Kids can speak for themselves, you know??

Riverman1
83902
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Riverman1 01/25/09 - 06:03 pm
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Geez, Quiet, everyone is

Geez, Quiet, everyone is ignorant if they don't agree with you. Heh. I think you lost on that.

crackertroy
540
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crackertroy 01/25/09 - 06:55 pm
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quietone probably never
Unpublished

quietone probably never worked in a school or with a school nurse either

Just My Opinion
5629
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Just My Opinion 01/25/09 - 07:18 pm
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Sandy, my point is that it

Sandy, my point is that it should NOT be in the hands of the teacher or the secretary...the diagnosis of a child's problems should be in the hands of someone more qualified and that would be the school nurse. Sorry, I just don't get your point at all. If it's that the child should maintain more responsibility for dispensing meds to himself, that just won't be "allowed" in school because of the irresponsibilities of others. CAN the child do it? Most likely he can...I'm not debating that. Again, the school...the government...won't allow it. So, with that fact in place, you have to hand off the responsibility to someone else, and that person should be more competent and trained...something that the teachers and secretaries shouldn't have to be burdened with. Will the parents come in and give the child his inhaler? No. How about doing the in-and-catheterization? No. If this is left to the teachers, I think most of them will just call the parent to come in. Now, if I still am not getting your point, or if I'm not getting across mine, tell me. I would love to know where you work so I can put this along lines that you would understand and appreciate.

debby
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debby 01/25/09 - 07:55 pm
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Did you all know that

Did you all know that parapros do catherizations? Heck, even I did them when I was a Columbia County parapro way back in 1995.

mable8
2
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mable8 01/25/09 - 08:53 pm
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Not that many years ago,

Not that many years ago, there were no "school nurses." If a student became ill, they went to the principal's office and the parent was called to come and get the child. Medications were given before the child arrived and after the child went home; students who were diabetic gave themselves their injections as needed. And JustMyOpinion, where on earth does your wife teach where there are so many seriously ill students? As for "special needs" children, the persons responsible for their care rests with the parents and/or guardians, not the school authorities, politicians, or other parents; if the student is that ill and requires that much in specialized care, they do not belong in mainstream schools--that is why school districts budget for In-home Teacher positions. If school nurses are so important, then let the schools share a nurse.

FRa9aB3t
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FRa9aB3t 01/25/09 - 09:25 pm
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it wont take but one sick

it wont take but one sick child that doesnt get the needed attention and a nice fat lawsuit will show the county how much a school nurse is needed.

Just My Opinion
5629
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Just My Opinion 01/25/09 - 10:03 pm
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SAMEOLD, you are right on the

SAMEOLD, you are right on the money. Mable, why do you think that they started putting nurses BACK in schools? If you have children yourself, you must not be attending school functions to simply see these kids. Course, some of them don't have flags over them that indicate their needs. BTW, my wife works in a Columbia County elementary school. You are absolutely correct that the ultimate responsibility rests with the parents, but the situation is that it was determined that these kids should be mainstreamed in with the "normal" children. If it were just the kids with health ailments that needed special attention, that'd be one thing, but when you throw in the kids that are disruptive, that throws another curve ball into the teacher's day. Just this last week, my wife was smacked by one of those punks, and she had to take time out from teaching the other "good" kids because she had to take this bad one up to the office and help them calm him down and call his parent to come get him. Anyway, I'm done with this. My opinion won't change yours, and vice versa. And that's okay. I just hope you never have a child that needs special care in the school.

aaa
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aaa 01/25/09 - 11:22 pm
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JustMyOpinion: I think I see

JustMyOpinion: I think I see where you're getting confused. You actually think that a school nurse is going to be able to "save" a kid in various emergency situations. Wrong. They have one RN who oversees the entire program. The school nurse is an LPN. Not every school has a school nurse on site, sometimes they cover more than one school. Even an experienced LPN is not qualified to intervene in an emergency. They typically go to the principal before a parent or EMT service is called. Your ideals are noble, but misguided and certainly not based in reality. If we take your rationalization of the "school environment" to the extreme, then the next thing society will be asked to pay for will be clothing, hygiene items, and even a "take home" meal for certain children. There is a reason that a slippery slope always ends up getting everyone wet and stuck in the mud. Think about it.

aaa
2
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aaa 01/25/09 - 11:37 pm
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My wife, who used to be a

My wife, who used to be a school nurse, just made a couple of points. First, while she was in charge of dispensing certain medications, she spent just as much time filling out paperwork. Second, none of the private schools have school nurses. They seem to be doing quite well without that program.

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