A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Only 54 percent of Ky. high schools have full-time nurse; poll shows support for one in every school

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Barely half of Kentucky’s high schools have a full-time registered nurse, according to the School Health Profiles compiled by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC says 45 percent of Kentucky high schools had a part-time registered nurse, while 29 percent had a school-based health center.

The latest Kentucky Health Issues Poll found that Kentucky adults “overwhelmingly favor a state law requiring schools to have a nurse in each school building, with 92 percent in support,” says a news release from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, which co-sponsors the poll.

“Children spend a considerable amount of time at school,” said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the foundation. “School nurses and resource staff are as likely to see evidence of health issues as parents in the home. Healthy students are more successful academically, and strong partnership between schools and families can help improve both student and health performance.”

Many Kentucky school districts have struggled to maintain nurse coverage, mainly due to financial problems of county and district health departments that have contracted with the schools.

Three Central Kentucky school districts could have to look elsewhere for school nurses after the Lincoln Trail District Health Department voted not to renew its school health contracts in Marion, LaRue and Hardin counties, reports Stevie Lowery of The Lebanon Enterprise. Marion County School Superintendant Taylora Schlosser said if the schools don’t have nurses, front-office staff will have to be trained to give medicine. He is trying to get the health department to reconsider.

Poll finds support for more active health role for schools

The CDC reported that about half of Kentucky’s high schools provided health-care referrals to students with chronic conditions.

“School nurses play a vital role in keeping students healthy and ready to learn. They can treat children with minor health issues at school to prevent lost instructional time,” said Paula Little, assistant superintendent and supervisor of instruction in Clinton County and a member of the foundation board. “They can also spot major health issues that might otherwise go undetected and have an overwhelmingly positive impact on a school’s learning environment.”

The poll also found that 61 percent of Kentucky adults strongly favor schools taking a more active role in helping families get health care for children. The support for schools’ role in health was significantly higher in 2017 than in 2009, the last time the poll asked the question.

However, it showed a partisan divide that the other question did not, with strong support at 74 percent among Democrats, 58 percent among independents and 52 percent among Republicans. But 26 percent of Republicans said they “somewhat” favored a more active role for schools, making overall GOP support 78 percent. The total Democratic support was 92 percent.

There was also a difference among income lines, with strong support from 70 percent of adults with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and 58 percent from those above that level.

From Kentucky Health News

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