08/19/04 — Wayne gets grant for two school nurses

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Wayne gets grant for two school nurses

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 19, 2004 2:04 PM

The Wayne County Health Department has received state money that it will use to add two school nurses, moving the school system closer to the ideal ratio of nurses to students.

The grant, from a program called "Healthy Children, Ready to Learn," is the result of legislation that recognizes the health needs of school-age children, said Health Director James Roosen. The funding was awarded to local health departments and can be distributed in several ways, he said.

"Since Wayne County already has an established school nurse program that focuses on children of elementary school age, the funding will be used to expand the number of nurses available in the middle school and high schools," he said.

Roosen said the school nurse program is provided through a partnership between Wayne Memorial Hospital and the school system. The hospital will be responsible for hiring the two nurses and administering the grant.

Jana Blackman, health promotion director at Wayne Memorial, said the grant has two parts.

"One is for funding for a school nurse for two years," she said. "The state also decided to fund 80 more full-time permanent school nurses across the state."

She said the amount of the grant translates to $49,375 for each position for the first year, and up to $50,000 per position for the second year. It covers salaries, training, benefits, and any medical equipment or supplies needed.

The new positions are expected to be filled by October, she said. That will bring the number of school nurses up to nine full-time and one half-time positions, covering 31 schools.

She said it equals having one nurse for every 1,000 students.

"The National School Nurse Association recommends a ratio of one nurse for every 750 students," Roosen said. "So the additional nurses will get us a little closer to the ideal ratio."

Statewide, he said, there will be 24 school systems that will meet the ideal because of the funding, and six counties in the state will now have funding for a full-time nurse.

"This grant will make a difference statewide," he said.

"The hospital is very happy to have received this funding," Ms. Blackman said. "Every county didn't get this. We were very fortunate that we got two nurses."

She said that Wayne County still has a way to go, but she recalled that seven years ago the ratio was one nurse for the 19,000 students in the school system.

"We have made great strides in developing the school nurse program," she said. "We have WISH school-based health centers in four middle schools and then we have school nurses who each serve several schools."

She said that currently nurses travel to different locations, each covering an average of three elementary schools. She said the ideal would be to have a school nurse based at every school.

Roosen said he is thankful the legislators, as well as others at the state level, are recognizing the need for school nurses.

He said one of the biggest impediments to success in school is lower-than-optimum health. School nurses, he said, have the potential to do much more than respond to illness or injury.

"They frequently are the only regular source of health care that many children have available," he said. "These nurses are the medical expert in the school setting and have specialized training in care coordination, chronic disease management and social health issues concerning children.

"Having this resource in our schools greatly improves the quality of a child's education."

He credited Wayne County with building a strong foundation as a leader in school health. He cited not only such examples as the existing school nurses program but the Wayne Initiative for School Health program or WISH.

"It takes a lot of work to keep these programs running and this community has become a model for a lot of school systems," he said.