What's become of the school nurse?
September 24, 2007 7:32 AM   Subscribe

Do American schools still have school nurses?

When I was in elementary school in the 80s, we didn't have a school nurse. I never had a nurse at school until college, and then that was the "health center." Most people my age (late 20s) say they didn't have a school nurse either.

I mean, it seems like a good idea. Someone gets a cut on the playground or throws up or something, send 'em to the nurse.

Are there really not school nurses anymore? Why not (I suspect funding)? Is it a public vs. private school thing? Urban vs. rural?

I'm just curious, not writing a book or anything.
posted by misanthropicsarah to Grab Bag (45 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My kids' elementary school does, yes.
posted by R. Mutt at 7:34 AM on September 24, 2007

My elementary school had a secretary who had basic first-aid training. She was effectively the nurse. Jr. High and High School, no nurse.
posted by d13t_p3ps1 at 7:36 AM on September 24, 2007

My son's (public, suburban, K-3) school has a nurse. She travels between some of the other elementary schools in the town (there are six total, and she goes to at least one other).
posted by Lucinda at 7:37 AM on September 24, 2007

In Texas, I had school nurses at at least levels 3-12 in the 80s-90s. Don't remember K-2.
posted by grouse at 7:40 AM on September 24, 2007

We had a school nurse in elementary school, and I'm 33.
posted by desuetude at 7:41 AM on September 24, 2007

Each of the elementary, middle and high schools in my town has its own school nurse. They also teach "Health." (Upper middle class college town in the NE.)
posted by pammo at 7:42 AM on September 24, 2007

"When I was in elementary school in the 80s, we didn't have a school nurse."

When I was in elementary school in the 70s, I went to three different schools. Two of them had full-time nurses. The third had no nurse.

"Are there really not school nurses anymore?"

I'm sure there are none in many districts. There are nurses in some districts. My kid's school has a nurse, but she's only on the premises a few days out of the month and does things like hearing tests and lice inspections. Routine first aid is done by the school secretary, primarily.

"Why not (I suspect funding)?"


Well, that and the lack of nurses. But primarily funding.
posted by majick at 7:42 AM on September 24, 2007

My son's does (also public, suburbanish, preschool - 8th). It has a therapist, too.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:42 AM on September 24, 2007

Our elementary school does, as does the middle school and the high school.
posted by iconomy at 7:45 AM on September 24, 2007

I'm 27, went to school in NY, and had a school nurse in my relatively small elementary school, and had 2 school nurses (with different offices) in my large public high school.
posted by catfood at 7:49 AM on September 24, 2007

My elementary (mid-late 80s), junior high, and high schools each had a dedicated nurse who was there full time. This was in a suburb of Minneapolis.
posted by vytae at 7:52 AM on September 24, 2007

All middle and high schools in our county (Northern Virginia) have full time nurses (RN's) on staff. Additionally some admin staff members are trained as nurses assistants.

I think this is a legal thing. So many kids now have to have medications administered during school hours and the number of cases of allergies, juvenile diabetes etc. means that a nurse HAS to be there in order to offset the possibility of law-suits against the schools, board of education etc. if something were to be given inadvertently or with the wrong dosage.
posted by worker_bee at 7:52 AM on September 24, 2007

We had nurses in all the schools I attended, K-12. This was in upstate New York in the mid 80's through late 90's.

Maybe some states require school nurses and others don't?
posted by AV at 7:56 AM on September 24, 2007

I went to six elementary schools in first grade. Two in Oklahoma, two in Maryland, two on military bases in Germany. The military schools and one of the Oklahoma schools definitely had nurses, but I don't remember whether the other three had any.

I was in a seventh school system (in Mississippi), where I don't remember any school nurse's office at all.

And then I finished off at an eighth school system in New York, where they not only had school nurses but had physician's assistants who gave full physicals.

I do think there is a funding issue involved, though I'm unaware of any schools in this area without nurses on staff, even though the nursing shortage is so dire.
posted by brina at 8:01 AM on September 24, 2007

Just weighing in with my Southeastern PA childhood experiences, all in the same school district: we had a school nurse in elementary, middle and high schools. The nurse in elementary school gave hearing and eye exams and also supplied you with a change of sweatpants if you peed yourself or spilled something hideous all down your pant-legs.

The nurse in high school was in charge of letting you go home if you claimed to be sick, and also eye exams (I don't remember hearing exams). I'm pretty sure I was examined for scoliosis in middle school by the school nurse, too.
posted by dorothy humbird at 8:19 AM on September 24, 2007

The school where I teach has a part time nurse and a couple of us are EMTs.
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:22 AM on September 24, 2007

In our district and county elementary schools have a paramedical professional or a nurse. At my son's school there is an EMT on staff.

Some schools share a nurse.

Some schools in the county raise funds through the PTA to have an LPN or RN at the school full time.

Our district is tight on funds and asks for health professionals to volunteer their time. Which reminds me, I need to submit an application.
posted by LoriFLA at 8:24 AM on September 24, 2007

In New Hampshire:

Elementary school (10+ years ago): Yup, she's who I went to when I felt sick or whatnot. I definitely recall a hearing test and a scoliosis exam.

Middle and high school: I'd outgrown going to the nurse anytime I had the sniffles, but they were still there. They were just there for when people got sick, and were in charge of deciding whether or not you got to go home. (And, in high school, had to give you permission to carry any prescription meds, apparently.)

College (Mass.): health services, basically a doctor's office on campus.

Elementary school my mom teaches at: definitely still a nurse. It seems to me like it's a position they'd be very hesitant to cut, too.
posted by fogster at 8:26 AM on September 24, 2007

Response by poster: This is really interesting. I had no idea there were school nurses still.

In my elementary school, the school secretary was the person you went to if you threw up, or had to take your medicine, or whatever.

We did get hearing tests and scoliosis tests and things like that, but it was from an outside person (someone who I assumed went to all the schools and tested for this stuff).
posted by misanthropicsarah at 8:26 AM on September 24, 2007

None of the schools I went to ever had a nurse. The office staff dealt with you if you had a headache or were throwing up.

I'm 25.
posted by cmyk at 8:29 AM on September 24, 2007

I'm 20. In elementary school, the school did have a nurse, but I think she was only there for special situations; ie. no exams or sick-student-evaluation. In jr. high, no nurse, in high school, there was a nurse but I never saw her once.
posted by tehloki at 8:36 AM on September 24, 2007

In Virginia, we had a dedicated school nurse in every school I attended. I'm 24.
posted by sephira at 8:40 AM on September 24, 2007

I'm in Ontario Canada, and I don't remember having a nurse in the school in elementary or junior high. In high school we did have one, but only 2 days a week I think. I never saw her.
posted by yellowbinder at 8:43 AM on September 24, 2007

I think a lot of places don't want the liability that would come with dispensing medical treatment. I don't recall my schools having nurses, but it was a very small school.
posted by slavlin at 8:46 AM on September 24, 2007

I have three kids in three different schools (in Massachusetts), and all with school nurses. This has come in handy several times, and been annoying several times as well when they overreact to any small discomfort a kid may have.
posted by genefinder at 8:56 AM on September 24, 2007

I didn't, my kids do.
posted by caddis at 9:03 AM on September 24, 2007

I'm 20 and my primary, elementary, middle and high schools in Maryland all had nurses and an "infirmary."
posted by puffin at 9:20 AM on September 24, 2007

My son's high school in North Carolina has a full time RN, as well as a therapist and police "resource" officer. I attended a private Catholic school way back in the day, and we were also equipped with a nurse, who wasn't even Catholic. I always found that interesting.
posted by msali at 9:36 AM on September 24, 2007

I had school nurses in the '80s and '90s at public schools in Northern Virginia. This was a well-funded district.

I'm aware of a school district in rural Oregon right now with a single part-time nurse for the high school, the middle school and all four elementary schools. They'd like to hire her full time, or even have more nurses, but the money isn't there.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:05 AM on September 24, 2007

We had a school nurse when I was in 3 different elementary schools in the 70s in Connecticut. After that I was in private school, which varied widely. My daughter, who mostly attended school in the 90s, never had a school nurse but then she started out in Baltimore, where, hey, they were lucky to have a teacher. They had armed police though. My son here in NC has a school nurse now in high school. In elementary school there was one who came in 2 days a week; she was shared among about 5 schools.

It's a state thing combined with a funding thing. Go to a working/lower middle class or just plain scary urban ghetto school and there will be no nurse, no art teacher, no music teacher and no gym teacher. Go to a nice upper middle class school in a comfie suburb and you'll (usually, although not always) find all of the above.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:09 AM on September 24, 2007

Oh yeah, in addition to getting most of my schooling in Virginia, where the nurse would do very little (s/he would take your temperature if you were sick, give you a place to lie down, and call a doctor if needed), I also went to public school in Norway for two years.

In Norway, state-funded nurses and doctors perform annual eye exams and hearing tests, dispense prescriptions, inoculate against disease and otherwise look after the health of students, not always informing parents in advance.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:10 AM on September 24, 2007

There was a day-long conference of school nurses in my building last week. I ran into two of them in the restroom, checking each other for headlice - so they explained why they were doing that. So I assume they're still in the schools - not just ion my office's restroom. Oh, look: National Association of School Nurses! God bless the internet!
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:35 AM on September 24, 2007

I am a freshmen in college from omaha NE and i had nurses in k-12. 3 schools all one district
posted by DJWeezy at 11:02 AM on September 24, 2007

I'm 34 and every school that my siblings or I attended in NM or MT had school nurses. The two elementary schools my son has attended here in VA have had school nurses as well. I'm surprised to learn of schools which do not have a nurse on staff.
posted by onhazier at 11:57 AM on September 24, 2007

My parents are very recently retired teachers who taught at public schools in California, and I actually just had this discussion with them re: someone we knew who wanted to become a school nurse.

Their thoughts were that, at least in CA, its not a common enough job anymore to make it necessarily worthy of someone's career aspirations. Their schools had a nurse who came 1-2 days a week, usually not for the whole day.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 12:12 PM on September 24, 2007

I'm 31, went to school in Virginia and we always had school nurses.
posted by bluebird at 1:16 PM on September 24, 2007

Going to school in Los Angeles, I had no idea whether my high school had a nurse; I never saw such a person in four years. My elementary school had one for the first few years and then didn't and instead we had a nurse once a week who also went to other schools nearby. I think my middle school had the same arrangement.

My mom's friend has been a school nurse in LA for years and years. She spends tons of time in the car. Much of the time she's doing routine stuff, but she's also been in some really dramatic situations; last year she correctly diagnosed a well-known movie star's child who had been mystifying his doctors for months with weird symptoms.
posted by crinklebat at 1:17 PM on September 24, 2007

When I was in Catholic school for k-6, we had a school nurse every other day (she would go between the two Catholic schools in town).

Junior high and high school had a nurse though.
posted by champthom at 1:44 PM on September 24, 2007

I'm 29, went to public schools in Northern Virginia, and we always had school nurses, K-12.
posted by sa3z at 3:02 PM on September 24, 2007

Public school in southwestern PA, I'm 41 now, we always had a nurse K-12. Hearing tests, scoliosis checks, etc. It was a very good thing to have, especially if you had "girl things" that you were afraid to ask your parents about.
posted by jeanmari at 3:29 PM on September 24, 2007

36. Virginia. Public schools. We always had a school nurse, K-12.
posted by MythMaker at 3:36 PM on September 24, 2007

I'm a school administrator in Texas. In my sixteen year career we've always had either an RN, LVN, or nurse's aide at both my own school and the school's my own children attended. Most schools in Texas have nurses.
posted by rcavett at 5:18 PM on September 24, 2007

I should've previewed...no wonder kids these days don't know their grammar...schools, not school's
posted by rcavett at 5:21 PM on September 24, 2007

My daughter's kindergarten center in New York has a full-time school nurse. On top of the standard patching skinned knees and calling about fevers and vomiting, she tracks insulin, Epi-Pens and rescue inhalers for children who are diabetic, highly allergic, or asthmatic, respectively.
posted by Andrhia at 7:44 PM on September 24, 2007

I was in elementary school from the late seventies to the early eighties and in every school I attended (we moved around a lot), we had nurses. There was a nurse in my middle school and my high school.

My kids are now in elementary school and there is a health aide employed full-time at their school. She's not a nurse (implication being degreed and registered), but she does all the stuff that Andrhia's school nurse does.
posted by cooker girl at 1:49 PM on September 27, 2007

« Older Help Me Not Squint at Word   |   a broken bank Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.