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In 2010, Mayor Greg Fischer Wanted to Help Put Nurses in JCPS Schools. That's on Hold


Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s 2010 campaign plan to put a nurse in every Jefferson County Public School isn't happening anytime soon.When he was seeking office, Fischer unveiled a 31-page book with nearly 200 ideas to increase the quality of life in Louisville. One of those ideas was to get a nurse in all 155 schools and learning centers in the JCPS system.Currently, only 28 JCPS schools have a full-time licensed practical nurse on staff.Here's a graphic sent from JCPS:

**Paid for by school, not in Health Services organizational chart but still report to Nurse Practitioner assigned to Area due to job description, medical oversight, licensure and Kentucky Board of Nursing.*** Churchill Park has two full time nurses funded by the school and has 1 Registered Nurse and 1 Licensed Practical Nurse**** Registered Nurse from Health Services assigned to BinetFischer recently told WFPL that his idea just lost momentum.“There has been some changes in terms of the emphasis on some of that stuff,” he said.  “At the end of the day it did not become a priority.”According to the National Association of School Nurses, the presence of a school nurse can provide academic and economic support for schools.Students with access to a full-time school nurse are sent home from school early for illness or injury almost 50 percent less than students with no access to a full-time licensed practical nurse or registered nurse, according to the National Association of School Nurses.The better attendance rates lead to more time the student spends in the classroom and better academic performance and lower drop-out rates, the association argues.“We keep a lot more kids in school with a school nurse,” said Laura Mullaney, principal at Gutermuth Elementary School.Having a full-time nurse on staff can also keep other school administrators and teachers from spending valuable time attending to a student’s medical needs, Mullaney said.“Without a school nurse, when a child comes in with an issue it falls to anyone that happens to be available in the office,” Mullaney said.  “In the office, there is no medical background, so it’s much harder to make the determination if a child is seriously ill and needs to go home or should go back to class.”Mullaney said the responsibilities of Gutermuth’s school nurse ranges from mending scrapes and bumps to keeping up with student immunizations and helping educate families on new diagnoses of medical conditions, such as asthma and diabetes.“She is able to watch for patterns,” Mullaney said.  “If a child is showing up every day at the nurse’s office at 2 p.m. she can start to figure out what is happening at 2 p.m. that the child is trying to avoid, whether that’s math class or whatever.”Ben Jackey, spokesperson for JCPS, said in addition to the district’s 28 full-time school nurses, there are “several contract nurses.”Contract nurses cover 66 individual student cases, 22 of which are one-on-one care, meaning a nurse is side by side with the student during the day because of a severe medical issue.“The remainder of the cases are covered by a nurse that provides intermittent services to a student,” Jackey said in an email.  “For example, giving a child insulin at lunch, catheterization at certain times of the day.  One nurse may cover multiple cases throughout the day.” Data from the National Association of School Nurses indicates that nearly 45 percent of public schools throughout the nation have a full-time school nurse on staff, every day.  Another 30 percent have a school nurse working part time or in more than one school.Just 18 percent of JCPS schools and learning centers have a full-time nurse.  In Kentucky, according to the National Association of School Nurses, there is a 30:1,114 school nurse-to-student ratio.  The NASN recommends, at most, a 1:750 school nurse-to-student ratio.Fischer said the plan to get a nurse into every JCPS institution “came down to questions of practicality of how we’re going to do it, liability and timing.”Based on information provided by Business First, the average salary of the 28 licensed practical nurses in JCPS is about $30,000.  It would cost nearly $3.8 million to put LPNs in the remaining schools.Mullaney said she has worked in schools without full-time school nurses.“I cannot imagine operating as a principal without a nurse in the school,” she said.(Image via Shutterstock)

Jacob Ryan is an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.