School nurses in Tennessee ‘frustrated’ amid pandemic


NASHVILLE, Tenn., (WKRN) — Health and safety are at the top of everyone’s mind as kids return to schools. However, one group is raising concerns about school nurses who are tasked with caring for kids when they get sick.

The director of the Tennessee Association of School Nurses said “frustration” was the best word to describe how school nurses felt as students head back to classrooms across the state this week.

The Tennessee Education Association criticized Governor Bill Lee’s re-opening plan, saying school nurses were not included.

RELATED: Gov. Lee unveils state’s guidelines for reopening Tennessee schools

“School nurses did not have a seat at the table when planning to re-open and they should’ve been the first group to have been contacted,” said TASN Director Janet Thornton. “They have the inside information on what needs to be provided, how to manage a school setting during COVID-19.”

She said school nurses will be tasked with handling sick children during unprecedented times.

“School nurses have a responsibility to manage children that are attending school that already have medical chronic illnesses and then you’re going to add a pandemic on top of that so those areas have to separated. You have to have your clean clinic and then you have to have an isolation clinic. You can’t cross-contaminate. You’ve got to keep things separate,” said Thornton.

RELATED: 2 Coffee County schools closed after cases of COVID-19 confirmed, staff quarantined

She added that nurses have been provided with supplies, including personal protective equipment from the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Education.

“I think that they’ve sent out an 8 week supply so that’s not enough. That’s enough to get started maybe. I don’t know that all school nurses have been provided with N-95 masks. I do know that they’ve not been fit tested for those N-95 masks,” Thornton explained.

According to TASN, school nurses were in desperate need of additional funding, and it’s not a problem that’s unique to the state.

There needs to be one registered nurse in every Tennessee school and that is not the case right now. Thornton said the current funding is one nurse per 3,000 students and that’s usually not enough outside of a worldwide pandemic.

“Communication, case management, doing those contact tracing are a big part of what school nurses will be doing over and above, again, managing her clinic, doing those routine treatments whether it’s monitoring a diabetic student, a student with asthma, a student with daily medication,” said Thornton. “There are a lot of factors that go into this and you’re talking about districts that don’t have a nurse in every school so this could be a nurse that has this problem in multiple schools across her county or his county and maybe within an hour’s distance from one another.”

Thornton said the organization is working to get funding for school nurses in Tennessee and across the country. Click here to learn more about TASN.

News 2 digs deeper into how schools are moving forward safely for the new academic year. See how other districts around Middle Tennessee are handling everything from classroom concerns to the future of sports in our special series. Click here to see more.

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.


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