By Michael Howell
Stevensville School Nurse Connie Johnson and School District Superintendent Dr. Bob Moore were elated last week when Amy James-Linton, a representative from Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital, showed up to hand them a check for $6,500 to help fund the school nurse position.
Moore said that the number of students with special medical needs was growing. More students than ever were needing help to deal with issues like diabetes, asthma and reaction to allergies.
“These are times of very tight budgets, but this is one program that we cannot cut,” said Moore. He said it was no longer a luxury to have a school nurse on hand, it was a necessity. “We simply could not do without this medical position right now.”
Johnson said it was her first year on the job that she has had to turn students away and have them call home. She has 22 students on her routine list whom she sees every day at least once. Some she sees two or even three times a day. As a result, all the little things like headaches, cuts and scrapes, must now be handled by the administrative staff.
“The recommended nurse to student ratio is 1 nurse for every 750 healthy students,” said Moore. “Here the ratio is 1 to 1,000 and they are not all healthy.” Moore said it was important that the school district keep these children with medical problems in school and engaged in their education with their peer group.
“We really do appreciate the fiscal support from the health community,” said Moore. “Without it we probably couldn’t do this.”
Besides the direct medical care for students, the school nurse also provides education to the teachers and staff about what they can do to help their students stay healthy.
The ability to keep these kids in school and in an educational environment is extremely important. Moore said that he worked for 31 years in the schools and this is the first one that has had a nurse. He said that people were moving to Stevensville because a full-time nurse is available.
Moore went on to say that the entire staff is trained in emergency medical response and they have a CPR team, but they are not trained to administer things like insulin and should not be put in the position that they have to.
Moore said if you look at the school’s free lunch program, it is an indication of people who may not be able to pay for medical help. “We have a fairly high rate of students using the free lunch program in our district,” said Moore.
Johnson said poverty complicates a lot of things and forces people to make decisions that they shouldn’t have to make.
“On behalf of the [Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital] board, I really want to thank you for the work you do. It’s so important,” said James-Linton.