Cumberland health director aims to improve school nurse numbers - WRBL

Cumberland health director aims to improve school nurse numbers

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -

School nurses in Cumberland County oversee more than twice the number of students than the national recommendation. That fact has the county Health Director Buck Wilson on a mission to get more nurses in schools.

Normally each Cumberland County school nurse is responsible for nearly 2,000 students. The Centers for Disease Control recommends no more than 750 students should be assigned to a nurse.

Cumberland County School nurses manage the workload by rotating duties between three or four schools. Each nurse generally visits one school per day and uses Friday to follow-up on health cases from earlier in the week.

"You just wish you could do more," commented Pat Baros, a Public Health School Nurse Team Leader. "You just wish there was more of you to go around."

Because Cumberland County's school nurses rotate school visits, they often get calls about health concerns from one school while they are at another. That means a staff member at the school is dealing with the health concern instead of educational duties, and that the school nurse is advising a staff member who does not have nursing skills.

"It would be so much better if the nurse could do that and [the staff member] could get back to the education at hand and the duties they have," said Public Health Nurse Supervisor Pam James.

Wilson said he is trying to find funding to add more nurses to local schools. His department has asked the county and the school system for additional money.

"It's a very challenging process obviously because everybody needs funding," Wilson said. "We'll continue to work, continue to educate and hope that we can get some additional school nurses this year."

With budgets tight, Wilson is also reaching out to parent teacher associations (PTA) and the School Health Advisory Council, along with any private donors that may be interested in helping pay for nurses. His goal is to have one nurse at each school and eventually have enough to meet the recommended ratio.

"Our point is we want to get more school nurses because children need to be healthy to learn," Wilson said. "So we want to keep the children healthy, keep them in school, improve attendance."

Brandon Herring

Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon. More>>

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