Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Opinion

May 3, 2012

Letter: State amendment would harm Andover school nursing

We were notified by the State Department of Health that due to a pending state budget amendment, "Lyons Amendment 577," Andover stands to lose significant support of its school nursing program.

For the past four years, Andover has been lucky to procure more than $400,000 through the Essential School Health Services Grant, funded by the state Department of Public Health. In addition to other improvements, this has enabled us to provide a second nurse for Andover High School and purchase defibrillators for the central administrative building and the High School Field House and update defibrillators in all school buildings.

School nursing has changed significantly over the seven years I have worked in our public schools. The complexity of our students with learning disabilities and health issues has been a conversation topic for several years in relation to the effects on the school budget. How we have managed the increasing costs in nursing has virtually been unnoticed and that's because we have been extremely lucky to receive the public health grant.

Students, parents and staff who frequent the school clinics would have certainly noticed visual changes in terms of safety, cleanliness, organization and availability of resources. The nurses will tell you how the increased burden has been eased with the help of qualified substitute staff.

Over the past four years we have seen student visits increase by 30 percent, the number of students taking daily medications has increased by 35 percent and the complexity of medical issues has risen dramatically. Students we assist have a variety of medical issues and include diabetic students, students with head injuries, heart concerns, allergies, asthma, students on ventilators, those who need medication and nutrition to be given through a tube in their stomach, students who need to be catheterized and students with intravenous lines.

Andover school nurses dealt with over 43,000 visits, gave more than 10,000 medications and performed over 16,000 screenings during the 2010-11 school year. We have not increased our core staffing. Nurses are working harder than ever.

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