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Prescription for Child Health & Safety: A School Nurse for Every School!


As a practicing pediatrician, I long ago learned about the wonderful work that school nurses do every day to improve the lives of children and families.  For example:

  • A school nurse quickly intervened after discovering that a child with diabetes could not afford her medication, so she was using another family member’s medicine, until there was no more and the girl was in a diabetic crisis.
  • Another child had an in-school allergic reaction to peanuts that required immediate attention by a school nurse.
  • A school nurse, who just happened to be at one of her three schools that day, saved the life of a child whose heart stopped, by performing immediate CPR.

Irvine’s School Nurses

There is no doubt that a full-time, professionally trained school nurse benefits students, parents, teachers and the entire community by not only providing immediate interventions to address medical crises, but also by getting to know students and their families — helping to provide health education and ensure optimum healthcare.

I’m a member of Irvine Unified School District’s (IUSD) Medical Advisory Committee.  At a recent meeting, IUSD school nurse Maria Otramba commented on what a difference it has made to families, children and staff now that she is a full-time nurse assigned to just one school, Meadow Park Elementary School in Irvine.  According to Otramba, “If we’re assigned to cover three schools, we move on to a new school each day, with new fires to put out.”  Clearly, the one-nurse, one-school formula provides for optimum outcomes.

Just consider the enormous responsibilities of a school nurse.  She/He is responsible for acute interventions, health surveillance, chronic disease management, emergency preparedness, behavioral health, health education, extensive case management, and doing what is needed to promote daily school attendance.

In her first year, school nurse Maria Otramba was astonished by the magnitude of severe food allergies among the students, many requiring emergency epinephrine injections.  The second year she focused on the full extent of mental health issues in our schools and the work that needed to be done to connect the school, community pediatricians, and mental health professionals to get individual kids mental health services on a timely basis. Now in her third year, Otramba is determined to make the entire Irvine community aware of the complexity of medical issues and needs facing so many Irvine children and families.

As the number of children with special medical and educational needs increases, it becomes critical that we support our school nurses.  Teachers can focus on teaching, while school nurses focus on health issues that impair learning.

Rx for Optimizing Child Health & Safety

The American Academy of Pediatrics advocates for school staffing that provides for one full-time professional school nurse in every school, because this is a remarkably effective way to promote and ensure good academic outcomes, as well as good health.  (You can read the AAP policy at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/137/6/e20160852.)

Measure BB, a local initiative authored by my husband, former Irvine Mayor Larry Agran; signed by 18,000 Irvine voters to qualify for the ballot; and approved by 70 percent of Irvine voters in 2012, provided City funds to significantly increase the number of school nurses in Irvine.  While the City Council continues to support the provisions of Measure BB, local pediatricians stand ready to advocate that Irvine move toward an important goal that can be summed up quite simply:  One-Nurse, One-School — A School Nurse for Every School!

What Do YOU Think?

Increasing the number of professional, full-time nurses assigned to Irvine schools is a remarkably effective way to promote and ensure good academic outcomes, as well as good health. 

Would you favor or oppose increasing the number of full-time school nurses in Irvine to meet the national goal of:  “One-Nurse, One-School — A School Nurse for Every School!”   Favor or Oppose?

Would you favor this “staffing-up,” even if it meant imposing a local Irvine property tax increase of $50 per household per year?  Favor or Oppose?

Click here to take our School Nurses Poll!

Phyllis Agran, MD, MPH, FAAP
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