By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer
RICHMOND — This summer, the Madison County School Board hired a team of school nurses to maintain the same level of care as provided in years past.
Previously, the board had contracted with the Madison County Health Department for nursing services.
District Health Coordinator Rebecca Carr said she was grateful for the school board’s continued support of the school health program. The number of nurses to be hired had been up for debate this summer.
The team of 11 will be in high schools three days a week and will alternate two days one week and three days the next in elementary and middle schools. Registered nurse Christa Martin will staff Mayfield Elementary full time.
During the first few days of school, nurses will be reviewing every student’s health services consent form (the pink one), which went home with students Wednesday, the first day of school.
Those forms must be returned as soon as possible, said Michelle Malicote, the district’s school health clinic services manager. Nurses will then begin working on emergency action plans for students with conditions such as diabetes, asthma, severe allergies, seizures or other health issues.
“Everyone from the gym teacher, to the librarian, to the bus driver” will be trained on students’ individual EAPs, said elementary school nurse Robin Swafford.
“Because of the advancements in medical technology, students are coming to school much sicker and needing much more care than they ever did before, which in turn increases the nurses’ responsibility” Malicote said.
In the Madison County district alone, the nurses care for children with a variety of health conditions, such as cystic fibrosis, sickle-cell anemia, diabetes, brittle bone disease, cancer and even students who have had organ transplants or tracheotomies. Other students have catheters, or may require tube feedings and suctioning.
“Students can come to school to get the treatment they need,” Carr said. “All students have an equal opportunity to attend school."
Malicote said school nurse clinics are “ambulatory pediatric triage clinics” or a “point of entry into the medical system.”
Nurses make the initial assessment and decide whether children should see their primary care provider or not.
Nurse Tracy Brandenburg said nurses provide a level of comfort for teachers and staff by providing medical care for students.
“Let us worry about the health needs of the children,” Brandenburg said. “Teachers have enough responsibilities to worry about in the classroom.”
Sexton said sometimes, students visit her in the morning and say, “My mom wanted me to see you before school starts to see if I need to go to the doctor.”
Sometimes parents will call or send a note asking that a nurse check their child, she said.
Nurse Sherra Morgan said the team also provides care for teachers and staff.
“We take blood pressures, always answer medical questions; we are the health resource within our buildings,” Morgan said.
Nurses work to help reduce barriers that may interfere with the child attending school, including home visits and visits to primary care physicians with the families, so they all can be on the same page concerning that student’s health care needs.
The team of nurses is committed to supporting the health and well-being of each and every child, Carr said.
Echoing the words of former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders, “You cannot educate a child who is not healthy, and you cannot keep a child healthy who is not educated,” Carr said.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at email@example.com@richmondregister.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.