School nurse shortage in Utah


    By Marianna Kocharyan

    Kim Lowe, a school nurse for Alpine School District, has been a regular nurse for 29 years and a school nurse for six.

    According to Lowe, school nurses do a lot of teaching in addition to just being a ?school nurse.?

    ?We teach nutrition, we teach dental hygiene,? Lowe said. ?In the high schools we teach about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and the effects of drugs on pregnancy. We teach Shaken Baby Syndrome. We teach hygiene and dental health and nutrition in elementary schools as well.?

    The biggest challenge for Lowe is having to visit so many schools.

    The national recommendation is one school nurse for every 750 students. In Utah one school nurse currently has anywhere between 4,000 and 6,000 students to serve.

    In Utah County, full-time school nurses cover six or seven schools. They are usually at each school one day a week from four to six hours. They carry pagers to always be available in case of emergency.

    Each year, the Government Relations Committee from Utah School Nurses Association appeals to the Utah Legislature for more school nurses. Because of many budgetary restraints, they haven?t been quite successful.

    ?As the school nurses we truly impact the lives of the children that we serve,? Lowe said. ?Every year we check the vision of our elementary school students and many times the parents weren?t even aware that the child had a vision problem. We catch it at the vision screening and, as a result of that, they get glasses and they are able to learn better, and all of a sudden their grades go up and they feel better about themselves.?

    ?Even something that simple can impact the life of a child,? Lowe said.

    Last week Governor Jon M. Huntsman Jr. signed a declaration recognizing May 11th as Utah School Nurse Day.

    The Utah School Nurse Day is a yearly event the National Association of School Nurses commemorates. It is usually celebrated on the Wednesday of the second week in May.

    Margie Golden has been the Utah Bureau Director of School Nursing for almost 19 years.

    ?Our governor has always supported us by declaring a School Nurse Day,? Golden said. ?At the Health Department we are planning just a luncheon to recognize all of our nurses and secretaries and thank everyone for their good work.?

    ?Definitely there is a need for more school nurses in our school,? Golden added. ?A lot of parents would like to have a nurse there all the time to deal especially with children that have special health problems, in the diabetic students or ones that might have chronic problems, like seizure disorders.?

    With the population growing in Utah, there is more need for school nurses. Both the Health Department and the School District contribute towards funding school nurses, but Golden was concerned with the limited funding in Utah. She thought it was great to recognize them for their devoted work at least once a year.

    School nurses generally get paid less than nurses working in a hospital setting, but most prefer working Monday through Friday, eight to five, instead of weekends and nights.

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