Things Your Child’s School Nurse Wants You to Know for a Successful School Year

School time is upon us once again! This will be my third year working as a school nurse. I have experience at the elementary and high school level. Let me preface this post by saying that I absolutely love my job. However, as with all jobs working with kids, the most frustrating part can be dealing with parents.

I am a parent as well, I get it. We are at work or at home trying to either get through our workday or take a little break from parenting while the kids are at school. I totally get it! But, occasionally, the school nurse will call for one reason or another and it takes away from your day. Most times, calling you is the last resort. I will try everything in my power and bag of tricks to keep your child at school.

But, sometimes, they just have to go home. Please take the following post with a bit of humor and the slight sarcasm with which it was written. I live in Washington and some of these only apply to my state.

Clothes- We have a limited amount of clothes available for your child to change if they have an accident or fall in the mud. That being said, if your child is prone to accidents, please send a change of clothes to keep at school in their backpack or cubby. If they have an accident and I don’t have clothes that fit them, they must sit in the nurse’s office until somebody brings them clothes.

Head bumps- Nurses will either call home or send notes home for head bumps. Sometimes, a head bump seems harmless at first, but the next day they can have concussion symptoms. This is why we call, so you can keep an eye out for your child. Also, I have seen many concussions, so if I call and tell you that your child has concussion symptoms, you might want to get them checked out. I cannot send them to class with concussion symptoms for their own safety. They must stay in the health room until someone comes to pick them up.

Playground injuries- Most playground injuries are just scrapes, bumps, and bruises. However, every year, I have seen broken bones. Once a student came in and asked for an ice pack then went to class 30 seconds later. The next day, his mother came into the health room mad at me because he had a fractured arm. I don’t always catch every, single injury. Please try to understand that.

x-ray of broken collar bone

Shots- Oh brother, shots are my nemesis. You have 30 days after a child has started school to catch them up on their shots. If you choose to file an exemption, please know that if there is an outbreak at school, your child will have to stay home until the outbreak is resolved. Personal exemptions for measles are no longer allowed. It must be a medical or religious exemption. This is the law and not a school rule.

Rashes- Most of the rashes that I see are harmless. But, if your child has a rash with a fever, they are going home. No question. If they have a rash that is either spreading or it is itching so badly they can’t even attempt to do school work, they most likely need to go home.

Possible abuse- If your child has a bruise or other injury and/or they tell me or the teacher that an adult hurt them, I have to call CPS. I hate that I have to, but it’s the law.

Contact information- At the beginning of each school year, it is wise to update the school with new phone numbers, new contact people, and your email address. After that, please set up your voicemail and make sure that it is not full. Also, nurses will leave voicemails and send emails in an attempt to reach you. Please do not be mad if they call the other contact people in an effort to reach someone. If your child is very sick and we cannot reach you, we will go down the list until we reach someone to retrieve your poor child.

911- If your child has an emergency or is going downhill quickly, I most likely will call 911. It is a last resort, but I have to put your child’s health and safety above all else. Most medics will not charge for their services unless they have to transport your child to the hospital. So, if you get there and it’s okay for you to take your child home or to the ER, you won’t be charged.

yellow toy ambulance

Fevers- If your child has a temperature over 100.4, they must go home. If they come in and their temperature is over 99.0, I will have them wait in the nurse’s office for about 15 minutes. If I check it again and their temperature is trending upward, I will go ahead and give you a call because usually by the time you get there, their temperature is over 100.4. Please note that I cannot give your child Tylenol even with your permission unless I have a doctor’s note. Also, please do not send your child to school if you know they woke up with a fever. I cannot tell you how many times people have given their child Tylenol and sent them to school only to have it wear off around 11:00 or 12:00. Usually the child will tell me that they woke up with a fever and have not been feeling well all day. This is important because now they have been exposing their whole class to their illness for 4+ hours. Please keep your child home if they have a fever. I am a single parent, and I know how hard it is to take time off work or find someone to watch your sick child; but it’s not worth starting an epidemic.

Throwing up- If your child throws up, I will most likely have to send them home. There are occasions when a child will be running around too much at recess and vomit. I can generally tell the difference between that and an actual illness. Also, most teachers are very hesitant to allow a child to come back to class after they have thrown up. Please know that I have had to send children home for this reason against my better judgment that they are not ill. The nurses and teachers work as a team to do what is best for everyone. I am sorry if your child goes home and plays and acts normal. We do the best we can to protect other students.

Emergency medication- If your child has life-threatening allergies, seizures, or diabetes- I must have emergency medication, doctor’s orders, AND an emergency action plan before your child can be at school. This is a law and not my rule. If your child’s medication expires and I do not get another one, they cannot be at school until I get that medication. I will give you a month notice that it is about to expire so you will have plenty of time to get a refill. I realize there has been an EpiPen shortage this last school year. There are many resources available. Please ask your doctor or school nurse for these resources.

Doctor orders- Again, I cannot give any type of medication or medicated cream or any other such thing without a written, signed doctor’s order. This also includes things such as cough drops and eye drops. I know it may seem silly, but that’s just the law to protect your child. Also, essential oils are not allowed at school due to the possibility of other students having an allergic reaction. You can place the oils on your child prior to coming to school, but just know that some people have strong sensitivity to fragrances, and you may be asked not to do that in the future.

Frequent flyers- I work at four different schools and have about 1500 students. I see between 30 and 50 kids a day. Honestly, I don’t know most of their names. Some students, however, I see multiple times a week. These are called “frequent flyers”. The majority of the time, a student becomes a frequent flyer if they are avoiding something. More often than not, they are avoiding schoolwork out of boredom or difficulty. Other times, we have discovered students are frequent flyers due to being bullied. This often manifests as frequent headaches or stomachaches. If your child is a frequent flyer, I will attempt to communicate this with you and have you talk to your student about the cause of their frequent health room visits. It may also be something the need to see a doctor for in case there is an actual health concern.

This concludes my public service announcement for the 2019-2020 school year. Thank you for reading and have a great year!

Published by

Yolanda Sommers

Single mother of four children living in Washington state. Received the precious Holy Ghost on June 7, 2011 and living the good life ever since!

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