There are 86,000 public schools in the United States, with over 53 million students enrolled, and over 20 million of them have chronic health conditions.
School nurses are the watchful eyes and ears of the nation's children during school hours. They are often the only primary care providers that children see on a regular basis. Children who used to stay at home when ill now go to school instead, often because both parents work. Many children with severe health problems who used to be enrolled in special schools or receive tutoring now are enrolled in classes with healthier children.
School nurses don't just dole out bandages anymore. They administer medication and monitor medication response, respiratory status, seizure patterns and blood glucose levels. School nurses monitor students for parasites, skin infections, infectious diseases, and sexual and physical abuse. More than 97 percent of school nurses care for students with diabetes; more than 95 percent care for students with seizures; and more than 93 percent care for students with chronic and severe asthma.
Unfortunately, there are far too few school nurses in our schools to care for the children who rely on them. In July 2002, the AFT Convention adopted a resolution calling for a fulltime school nurse in every school building. As a result, the AFT recently launched a new campaign, 'Every Child Needs a School Nurse.' Public awareness is a key component to getting a full-time nurse in every school building. Many parents are completely unaware that there is not a school nurse in their child's school. The campaign includes materials to help educate the public and policymakers on the vital role that school nurses play in the health and education of our children.
AFT Healthcare provides policy, collective bargaining, research and legislative support to the AFT's 15,000 school nurses. School nurse representatives sit on the AFT Healthcare Program and Policy Council, and the AFT Healthcare School Nurse Subcommittee meets regularly to advise the union on school nurse issues.