Virus outbreak shines a light on NC’s need for a nurse in every school

[Editor’s note: One of the most notable and destructive impacts of the General Assembly’s decade-long disinvestment in public education and public health has been the state’s wildly inadequate number of school nurses. Across the state, many nurses must attempt to serve multiple schools and, in some cases, thousands of children.

The following letter to the editor from Guilford County nurse Robin Lane warns that the obvious danger in this situation is dramatically heightened by the current public health crisis.]

Before the COVID-19 crises crashed into our daily lives, you may have recognized the value in having a health professional available to students during their school day. School nurses are that professional. Nurses keep students healthy, in their classes, ready to learn.

With or without pandemics, school nurses teach prevention, identify illness, and ensure that students who need more care will have it. When available, nurses are a trusted source of information and reassurance, both more critical than ever to calming the mounting fears of anxious students.

Project ONE advocates for timely increases in the number of school nurses, now an urgent need, Guilford County has fewer than half of the number recommended. And while new positions were added in two of the past three years, in 2019, no new positions received funding. Now, in the midst of this public health crises, we have an opportunity to right the ship.

Contact county commissioners and state legislators. Urge that they provide proper funding for public health. Ask them to approve the Health Director’s budget requests, especially those that would give us more school nurse positions. Our children deserve well paid teachers, and safe and secure buildings. They also need a nurse in every school.

Robin Lane, RN, PNP, MPH, is a former school nurse and pediatric nurse practitioner and is vice chair of the Guilford County Health and Human Services Advisory Committee and chair of the Project ONE initiative.

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