School board considers hiring district nurse

SWARTZ CREEK — Back in the day, the school nurse was an integral part of every school building, handling everything from skinned knees and sniffles to allergy and asthma attacks and diabetic reactions.

Over the years, more and more school districts phased out the school nurses. But now, with growing concerns about serious childhood allergies and other chronic health issues, cultural changes that have focused more attention on preventive health and wellness, and of course, the pandemic, some districts are thinking that it might be a good idea to have a medical professional on staff.

In the coming months, the Swartz Creek Community Schools Board of Education will consider options for hiring a nurse to oversee staff training, respond to emergencies and take the lead in implementing any health-related mandates.

“We are in the midst of a pandemic, so there is obviously an immediate need,” said Superintendent Ben Mainka. “But we also have safety plans. We have situations often with students with diabetes or other chronic health conditions that require care. It would be very, very helpful to have a board-certified nurse on staff.”

Mainka said a school board decision is still “down the road,” but it’s something district officials will be talking about in the near future.

“From a health education and wellness standpoint, I think that’s a deficit we have in our district,” said board President Carrie Germain, a pharmacist.

Having a nurse on staff would provide “a significant opportunity to improve access to immunizations,” she said.

Currently, Michigan is behind by 80 percent in routine immunizations, she added.

“That’s concerning,” Germain said.

As the nation gets closer to offering a COVID vaccine, “there will have to be a way to deliver that vaccine efficiently and quickly,” she said.

School board member Alicia Gardner, a nurse, said she believes every school building should have a nurse on staff.

“There is a huge need for appropriate and local and very efficient and available resources,” she said. “I think it’s something the district should consider investing in. My only caution will be that you’re going to quickly realize you need more than one. I think it’s kind of a shame in our area that that role has gone by the wayside.”

Mainka said the next step will be to do a financial analysis.