A School Nurse on Each Campus Provides Needed Support for Teachers and Students

The challenges of navigating COVID-19 within a school building and school system have been immense. A silver lining to the pandemic, however, is that different areas of concern were illuminated when it came to addressing the needs of the holistic student.

Often, the academic needs of a school overshadow the needs of the mental and physical well-being of a school’s students. With a desire to address the various aspects of each student beyond the classroom and recognizing that learning is impacted by a myriad of factors, Haywood County Schools was able to place a nurse on each campus in the school’s district for the first time during the 2020-2021 school year.

Director of School Nurses, Julie Taylor, explained the importance of having a nurse on every campus.

“We have a lot of students with chronic health issues. We have students who have severe allergies. We have children who are diabetic and need their blood sugar monitored consistently”, she explained.. “We’re also discovering more of these students as we’re getting to know them in the schools, and we couldn’t have done that without having a nurse on every campus.”

A goal of the system for the last several years has been to have a nurse on every campus, and grant funding helped to make that a reality.

“Right now, the law says we only have to have one nurse for every three thousand students. We have almost three thousand students in our entire district, and I can’t imagine one nurse trying to meet the needs of every student,” Julie said. “It’s simply not safe.”

A one to one ratio of school nurses to each campus is obviously beneficial for the students, but also allows principals, teachers, and school support staff to directly focus on the academic needs of a student,

“Without a school nurse on campus, faculty and staff and administrators were having to handle a sick child and call home or try their best to determine whether or not a child should go home. That’s a tough position for non-medical professionals to find themselves in, and there was a lot of time invested in that, too,” she explained.

Another benefit of having a nurse on each campus is that it opens up direct communication with families about a student’s medical history or if a student has been exposed to COVID if they happen to be presenting symptoms such as a cough, headache, or sneezing. Without a nurse on each campus, determining the next step for that student would be extremely challenging.

Even without the obstacles of COVID and operating a school district in the midst of a pandemic, site based school nurses are an integral part of educating the student on a holistic level. The desire of the district is to continue to have a nurse on each campus moving forward.

“As principals realize the pressure a school nurse can alleviate on campus, I think they’ll insist on keeping them on their campuses,” Julie explained. “There’s legislation in the works to lower the ratio to one nurse for every 750 students, but that’s still too high. Right now, we’re one nurse for every 250 students in Haywood County. That’s where it should be.”

Educating each student and helping them grow as a person in every way involves more than curriculum and testing. Caring for the student as a person will allow that student to learn to the best of their ability. Having a medical professional on every campus is an important and necessary part of that process.