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Virginia needs more school nurses

To The Editor:

The Virginia Association of School Nurses (VASN) welcomes Gov. Ralph Northam’s plan to reopen schools and we look forward to seeing our students returning to school.

However, some school districts in Virginia do not employ a single school nurse. In fact, unlike more than half of the states in our great nation, Virginia still does not have legislation requiring the hiring of school nurses.

Though the current pandemic has certainly magnified the necessity for school nurses, we know this is not a new situation. Did you know that it was a school nurse who first identified the H1N1 virus in 2009? Professional school nurses are the only staff that can provide surveillance via screening, assessing, and referring students/staff with possible COVID-19 symptoms.

Skilled registered nurses in schools can provide health assessments that go well beyond the capabilities of an unlicensed staff member. School nurses are administrators who manage the health needs of our school communities and assist other employees to manage medication administration, health care delivery, and so much more. School nurses also help to ensure appropriate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), proper spacing and health-focused cleanliness, and recommended strategies for virus containment.

To ensure Virginia is truly prepared for these reopenings, the VASN recommends that a registered school nurse (RN) be employed in all schools throughout the commonwealth. We make this strong recommendation following extensive discussions with state leadership, guidance from public health experts, and recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the National Association of School Nurses.

We are calling on all parents, citizens, PTAs, and administrators to join us by contacting the Virginia Board of Education and your local school board to demand this commonsense correction to a longstanding oversight. We are also asking for Virginia residents to urge their state representatives to lend their support to Sen. Jennifer Kiggans’ SB 5004, which requires each local school board to employ at least one full-time school nurse position in each K-12 school in Virginia.

Your kids deserve it.

Gina A. Bellamy MSA, BSN, RN, NCSN

President

Virginia Association of School Nurses