By Tracy Minkin
From Health magazine
Remember the school nurse parked in that office down the linoleum hallway? How times have changed. Laurie Feldkamp, RN, a 30-year nursing veteran in the Dearborn, Michigan, public schools, barely sits down from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., as she races among her eight schools and 4,000 students. Yes, 4,000 students.
Feldkamp is hardly the exception. Her caseload is slightly better than Michigan's state average (one nurse to 4,204 students) and far better than the average in Utah, where there is currently one nurse for every 4,893 pupils. With a national student body that's in dire need of support (13 percent are overweight or obese, 13 percent take long-term prescription medication, 12 percent have asthma, and the list goes on), "We've never needed school nurses more," says Amy Garcia, RN, MSN, executive director of the National Association of School Nurses.
The problem? No nationally mandated ratio. This creates a gross disparity among states. (Vermont leads the nation with one nurse for every 275 students.) Carolyn McCarthy, herself a nurse and a sixth-term representative from Long Island, New York, is trying to fix the problem: She has introduced a bill that will fund states' efforts to reduce their ratios. Meanwhile, Laurie Feldkamp keeps on trying to care for 4,000 kids a day.