Professional school nurse should not be optional
The Virginia Association of School Nurses (VASN) welcomes Gov. Ralph Northam’s plan to reopen schools and we look forward to seeing students returning to school.
However, some school districts in Virginia do not employ a single school nurse. In fact, unlike more than half of the states in the nation, Virginia still does not have legislation requiring the hiring of school nurses.
Though the pandemic has magnified the necessity for school nurses, we know that this is not a new situation. Most people might not know that it was a school nurse who first identified the H1N1 virus in 2009. Professional school nurses are the only school staff member who can provide surveillance via screening, assessing, and referring students and staff with possible COVID-19 symptoms.
Skilled registered nurses in schools can provide health assessments that go well beyond the capabilities of an unlicensed staff member. School nurses are administrators who manage the health needs of school communities and assist other employees in managing medication administration, health care delivery and more. School nurses also help to ensure appropriate supplies of personal protective equipment, proper spacing, health-focused cleanliness and recommended strategies for virus containment are in place.
To ensure Virginia is prepared for these reopenings, the VASN recommends that a registered school nurse be employed in every Virginia school. We make this recommendation following extensive discussions with state leadership, guidance from public health experts, and recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Association of School Nurses.
We ask all Virginians to contact the Virginia Board of Education and local school boards to demand this commonsense correction to a long overdue oversight. We also ask them to urge their state representatives to support Senate Bill 5004, sponsored by state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans, R-Virginia Beach, which requires that each local school board employ at least one full-time school nurse position in each K-12 school in Virginia.
Your kids deserve it.
Gina A. Bellamy,
President, Virginia Association of School Nurses.Richmond.