At some local school clinics, lines run out the door, said School Board Chairwoman, Jane Goodwin.
When children come to school, they arrive with a set of conditions the school has to handle: how they learn, how they eat, how they manage their health.
Lines can run out the door for some school clinics, said Sarasota County School Board Chairwoman Jane Goodwin. A diabetic student may need an insulin shot, which can be administered only by a registered nurse. Most district schools are staffed by health room aides, who are not required to have nursing degrees but must complete School Health Aide Medication Administration and CPR and First Aid training, according to a job description for the position.
But now the school district wants to look at replacing many of those health room aides with licensed practical nurses.
Suzanne Dubose, the district’s supervisor of health services, said she and a colleague “stay up late some nights because if a nurse is out,” one person may wind up “covering three or four schools.”
“How are we going to get to that school and who are we going to get to cover?” she said.
The county has ten registered nurses, two licensed practical nurses and 40 health room aides employed by Sarasota County Schools, according to a chart provided by the district. The district spends about $3 million on school health staffing, including 13 RNs, four administrative employees and eight screeners from the Florida Department of Health — Sarasota County.
Over the next four years, the district wants to increase the number of LPNs to 23 and decrease the amount of health room aides to 24, according to the chart. That would increase the total cost for nurse and clinic staffing by about $340,000.
That amount comes out to about $5,400 per health room aide that transitions to a licensed nurse and about $42,000 per newly hired licensed nurse position, Superintendent Todd Bowden said.
In Manatee County, the situation looks a little different, according to Teresa Masterson, a school health specialist with Manatee County Schools.
All Manatee high schools have a registered nurse and either a licensed practical nurse and/or a clinic aide. Its middle schools have registered nurses who cover between one and two schools, and each middle school clinic has one licensed practical nurse. Elementary schools also have registered nurses who cover between one and two schools, and they either individually have an LPN or a health aide, Masterson said.
Sarasota School Board Member Caroline Zucker also mentioned the possibility of creating a pipeline between Suncoast Technical College’s LPN program and the district’s clinics. STC’s Sarasota and North Port campuses both offer LPN certification classes.
Although the School Board does not need to approve the effort to replace aides with nurses when those positions are vacated, the board will vote on the amended job descriptions as they come up, Bowden said.
At least one School Board member, Goodwin, was enthusiastic about the proposal at a recent workshop, while both Zucker and Shirley Brown said they were “in favor” of the initiative.
“We have chronically ill students and students who are not getting medical care,” Goodwin said. “We know what’s happening with low-income students in the state. Is there a danger in giving them not enough medication? Yes. Is there a problem with not having attention at a certain time in the day and so forth? Yes. It’s a good thing for us to do — it’s something that we need to do. You cannot learn if you are sick, you cannot learn if you are hungry, and we need to help.”
This story comes from a partnership between the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and the Herald-Tribune, funded by The Patterson Foundation, to cover school readiness, attendance, summer learning, healthy readers and parent engagement. Read more stories at https://www.gradelevelreadingsuncoast.net/category/solutions-journalism-partnership/.