Expand school nurse role, increase pay

Expand school nurse role, increase pay

Friday, July 31, 2020

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Dear Editor,

Over the years there has been increased numbers of school nurses in secondary educational institutions islandwide, but their presence has been greatly undervalued. The role has been restricted to primarily basic first aid and health promotional activities for students and staff in most cases.

Based on the high volume of advertisements for the post in the press, I would assume there is a high turnover. It is possible that the meagre level two remuneration is deemed not to be commensurate with the tasks of the position, also there is limited scope for mobility, thus making it an unattractive job for the professional nurse.

School nurses are responsible for all students and staff in the institution. Depending on the school's size, that population could be greater than daily hospital attendees. Not to mention, school nurses liaise, accompany, and in some cases transport injured students to doctors' offices or hospitals in emergencies. Furthermore, the nurse will have to await the arrival of the parent or guardian before being relieved of the custody for the child — regardless of whatever time of the day or night they arrive.

I believe that the school nurse's role needs to be reviewed based on the enhanced training and skill sets that are required to promote health and well-being in schools, and the salary increased to match this expanded role.

COVID-19 is a perfect opportunity to highlight the value of the school nurse, as the World Health Organization (WHO) designated 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife. Infection control and prevention are, by far, the most important principles to maintain a healthy population. Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole demonstrated this over a century ago in the Crimean War. The expanded role would integrate the Occupational Health and Safety Act (2017) into secondary educational institutions, as well as COVID-19 guidelines based on the ministries of health and wellness as well as education, youth and information.

I hereby propose that the position be increased to level three, which is a nurse manager's post in the general hospital. These individuals are equipped with clinical skills as well as leadership and management skills that are transformational. School nurses would support the educational administrators in a dynamic way to enhance the well-being of all attendees to the school plants. The role could then be extended to include health screening and disaster preparedness and management.

We must make the position more attractive in order to reduce the deficit of school nurses islandwide.

Antoinete Barton-Gooden


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