News & Events

School Nurses Hold School Health Lobby Day at State House on Feb. 11, 2002 (9 – 11 am)

Seek to Maintain Funding for Improved School Health Services for State’s Children

Note to Editors & Reporters: Nurses will be attending from
all areas of the state, call Marcia Buckminster above to set up interview with a school nurse in your coverage area

BOSTON, Mass. — While the health needs of Massachusetts’ students have grown increasingly complex, many thousands of students receive no or inadequate school health services. To help address this problem, school nurses, parents and health care advocates will converge on the Massachusetts State House on Monday, Feb. 11, 2002 from 9 am – 11 am for a School Health Lobby Day.

The event, hosted by the School Nursing Services Collaborative, is designed to educate legislators and demonstrate strong support for legislative efforts to protect school health funding from possible budget cuts and the need to increase state resources for school health and nursing services in more schools across the Commonwealth. The annual Friend of School Nursing award will be announced at this time.

The event will feature a number of speakers including government officials, parents, school administrators and school nurse representatives who will address the need for improved school nursing services in response to the changing health needs of Massachusetts’ school children. In 1998, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health presented a plan to the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees for the expansion of school health services. In FY 2001 and 2002, the legislature responded by increasing funding for school health services. This year, Governor Swift has level funded school health services at $25,273 in her FY 2003 budget. This year, the School Nurse Collaborative is advocating for legislators to support at least the current level of funding, in order to maintain the standard of care needed to service the growing population of students with mild to severe health needs.

"We are concerned about the impact on school health services due to declining state revenues and the impact of the recession in the Commonwealth. We are concerned that Health and Human Services Programs may be among the first budget items to be reduced," said Mary Zamorski, Director of School Health Services for the Springfield Public Schools and President of the Massachusetts School Nurses Organization. "We hope to use School Health Day as an opportunity to let legislators know that there is grassroots support for funding school health programs and that cutting the school health budget is unacceptable in FY 2003. School nurses provide a valuable social and health care safety net; particularly in tough economic times as school nurses are a primary source for poor or uninsured children to have access to health assessment. Also, in the wake September 11 and growing concerns over bioterrorism, school nurses provide a readily available resource for early detection and rapid response in local communities.

The funding proposed by the School Nursing Services Collaborative would be used to bolster the Department of Public Health’s Enhanced School Health Services Program and the School Based Health Center Program. Currently, the Enhanced School Health Services Program provides support to 109 school districts, permitting these districts to increase the number of school nurses, improve health education and tobacco prevention programs, and develop stronger linkages between school health programs and community health providers. Approximately 82 other school districts have received school health consultation services from this funding.

As early as 1992, a special commission relative to the practice of school nursing recognized the unmet needs of Massachusetts students and concluded, "Children attending schools in the Commonwealth today are faced not only with the usual and common infectious disease, they face the threat of other major health problems not always well understood by teachers, parents and the community. Special needs children integrated into classrooms of every town have significant health and nursing needs, including such things as catheterization, suctioning and the administration of complex treatments. The administration of medication and the monitoring of their effects, couple with the needs of children from dysfunctional families, further complicates the picture of school health."

According to Zamorski, the Commission report accurately depicts the conditions in her schools, as well as schools throughout the state. "Within the last school year, our nurses have cared for acute, chronic and emergency health problems such as asthma, attention deficit disorder, migraine headaches, epilepsy, heart conditions, diabetes, life threatening allergies, arthritis and hemophilia. We have had students coming to school requiring colostomy care, intravenous medications, nasogastric feeding and other procedures."

School nurses are also required by law to conduct annual postural, hearing and vision screening tests on all students and monitor compliance with school immunization regulations. They also provide health education to students, teaching healthy lifestyles, as well as management of illnesses.