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Need For School Nurses Increases

November 5, 2012, 6:06 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Need For School Nurses Increases

Parents can count on the school nurse to be there when their child needs a Band-Aid or a hearing or vision test. But these days, school nurses are called on to also help students with a wide variety of physical and mental health issues.

Eight-year-old Kirstin Dravland sits front and center as she listens to her teacher tell the story of the U.S. Constitution in a comical way.

"I don't like missing school," Kirstin said.

But the motivated third-grader has had to miss a fair share of school days.

"Whenever Kirsten gets a cold, she needs to have a breathing treatment. It seems the mucous just fills her lungs.  So registered nurse Devon Stoffers gives her a breathing treatment every four hours." mother Ingrid Dravland said.

You see Kirstin suffers from asthma, reactive airway disease and a weakness in her trachea.

"Most of the time it takes a nurse -- a qualified, certified nurse -- to do what they have to do with Kirstin," Ingrid said.

And Kirstin isn't alone. With more kids in schools with chronic health conditions, there's a greater need for school nurses. In fact, Stoffers makes the rounds at three different schools on a regular basis.

"We have students who have diabetes. We also have students who have seizure disorders and life-threatening allergies," Stoffers said.

Stoffers has been a school nurse in Sioux Falls for eight years and she's already seen the need for nurses in schools increase.

"I see more life-threatening allergies and asthmatics," Stoffers said.

The nurse-to-student ratio in Sioux Falls schools is better than smaller districts in the state but still doesn't meet national recommendations by the National Association of School Nurses. Not only are school nurses such as Stoffers counted on to keep students healthy, but by keeping them in the classroom, students also benefit academically.

"The teacher gives them the work they have but it's not all of their lecture, so they miss a lot of school. When they're in school, they're picking up a lot more academically," Stoffers said.

"She had missed a lot of school in her earlier years. Now last year and this year, thanks to Nurse Devon, I'm able to go to work. She's able to come to school, and she's able to not miss out on all that learning," Ingrid said.

And it's learning even Kirstin doesn't want to miss.

Each school nurse in Sioux Falls Public Schools serves about 830 students. Statewide, the average is 1,027 students per nurse.

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