More than 200 Health Care District of Palm Beach County school nurses, health technicians and staff gathered to prepare for the upcoming school year last week at William T. Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens.
“Palm Beach County made a bold commitment in the 1990s to put a nurse in nearly every public school,” said Dr. Alina M. Alonso, director of the Florida Department of Health for Palm Beach County in her welcome address. “Today, we are one of the few school districts in the nation that has a nurse in nearly every school. In many cases, you are the only healthcare provider a child ever sees. Your role on campus is more important than ever.”
Every school day, the nurses are ready to respond to a wide range of health issues, from injuries and illness to chronic diseases like seizures and asthma. They provide nursing care, medically complex care planning and case management, and communicable disease surveillance.
The school nurses identify conditions, sometimes life-threatening, that might otherwise go unnoticed and they steer students and their families to treatments. Last year, school health technicians performed 50,000 vision screenings, nearly 50,000 hearing screenings and more than 11,000 scoliosis screenings.
At this year’s meeting, the registered nurses received “Stop the Bleed” training to use in the event of on-campus emergencies. The annual event brings the nurses and staff together before they begin working independently in health rooms at their assigned schools. School health is one of the many programs that the Health Care District provides to keep the community healthy.
“As the school year begins, you can take pride in what our health care system has accomplished,” said Darcy J. Davis, the Health Care District’s chief executive officer, as she addressed the group. “Over the past couple of years, we’ve focused on fulfilling our safety net mission in the county. We have expanded our programs like adding a mobile health clinic for the homeless and a new behavioral health benefit.”
Davis noted that, “while expanding access to quality care for our patients, we’ve also been respectful to county taxpayers. We reduced the tax rate 33 percent in the past three years to the lowest rate in district history.”
Nurse Ginny Keller, director of the School Health Program, summed up the meeting, which this year featured a western, rodeo theme: “We are truly excited to kick off the school year and help ensure that nearly 180,000 pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students stay healthy and ready to learn.”
For back-to-school tips, visit www.schoolnursetips.org.