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Monday, September 21, 2009

H1N1 Flu Pandemic Illustrates Need for Office of the National Nurse

Continued cutbacks in school nurses raises concerns for H1N1 response. With the threat of H1N1 flu facing schools this fall, the role of school nurses will be pivotal as communities gear up to respond to H1N1. Yet few states or school districts meet the CDC recommended ratio of having one school nurse for every 750 students, and each school nurse often must serve several schools. The National Association of School Nurses found from its own 2007 survey that the ratio was much higher; 1,151 students per nurse.

USA Today recently highlighted the plight of America's school nurse in their report, School Nurses In Short Supply. The article acknowledges that when swine flu appears in schools, it is likely that the school nurse will discover it. Yet nationwide, only an estimated 45% of public schools have a full-time nurse on staff. If public schools who have a part-time nurse are added in, this figure jumps to 75%. Still this leaves 25% of schools with no nurse at all.

The actual impact H1N1 will have on school children is yet to be determined. School nurses anticipate being needed to coordinate screening, plan for mass immunizations, and teach prevention including proper handwashing and cough etiquette.

The pending H1N1 scenario presents a good example of how having a National Nurse would benefit our nation. A National Nurse could provide focused guidance and attention on this crisis; engaging nurses able to volunteer to partner and offer assistance to their local schools, and encourage nurses to participate in immunization clinics as these become available in their own communities.

The National Nursing Network Organization Team—Monday, September 21, 2009  

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