News & Events

Michelle Carrick, Parent of Child with Asthma, Testifies to the Value of School Nursing

I am the parent of a 9th grade student, who for the first time since starting kindergarten has a full time nurse in his school. He is also a teen who for the first time is able to put aside his worries about having a medically competent professional available if he needs one.

Let me explain:
My son has moderate, persistent asthma, including a number of hospitalizations, he also has multiple and life threatening food allergies, which have also required hospital intervention and environmental allergies requiring medication management during seasonal periods.

In order for him to attend school safely, I was required to be present and available through many school days, all class trips, after school programs, class projects and social activities including sports events. I was more than willing and fortunate enough to be able to do what I needed to keep him safe, but what I did not know was how great the cost was to him.

It was fine when he was in first and second grade but beyond that, the extent of my parental involvement grew heavy, a burden to both he and I.

When he started school there were 4 nurses for 7 schools, by the time he left the district there were 6 nurses for 7 schools. 1 nurse covered the high school, a school of 1100 students.

Through it all, my son was lucky… but should his safety at school be based on luck?

Some of the other students were not as lucky, the 3rd grade student who went into a diabetic coma because there was no nurse available when he started to have a diabetic reaction.

Or the high school student who went to the nurse with an asthma exacerbation, only to find the secretary, who had the sense to call an ambulance, when the nurse took too long to arrive from another school. The student, subsequently, needed to be intubated and spent the next 3 days in ICU.

As I said earlier, my son was lucky, the ambulance arrived in time, when the nurse got caught in traffic as she tried to reach his school to assess his medical condition.

And what about issues such as confidentiality, medication errors, misdiagnosed medical conditions when a nurse is not available? What about the burden and cost to the teaching staff, the administrative staff and to our students? Not to mention the nurses themselves, but this is not about school nurses, it is about the health, safety and well being of our children.

And the reason given for not having a full time nurse in a school? COST. Year after year, I was told the school, the town, the state could not afford it.
And after 9 –11, anthrax, and now SARS, our government does not tell us they will not keep the public safe because of COST. Not at all, because cost is not the real problem, the problem is value. Public safety is of great value to our government officials and to the public. We all want to believe we are safe because we now know what it is like to live feeling unsafe.

So what about our children? Do they have to carry the burden of being unsafe at school because each school does not have a full time school nurse? Are their voices silenced because they do not vote? Should their safety at school be based on luck? Because it is, each child who needs a school nurse is lucky if one is there.

But please do not tell me the reason we do not have a full time nurse in each school is due to COST because if you do, you will then need to answer the questions:

  1. What is the cost of a child’s safety and well being?
  2. What is the value of my child’s health?
  3. What is the worth of his life?

I do not believe there is an answer to those questions…

Therefore, I do not believe there is a reasonable answer to why there are not full time school nurses in our school!

Michele Carrick, parent
Member of the Board of Directors
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, New England Chapter