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Nurse leader proud of schools' health aid.

Byline: Paula J. Owen

FITCHBURG - Fitchburg school district's nurse leader Pamela J. Rivers said the schools' 13 nurses are helping keep children healthy.

Ms. Rivers updated the Fitchburg School Committee this week on what the nurses in the district are doing and how a $98,000 state grant is helping them provide essential school health services.

It is the second year the district has received the grant, she said. Last year, it got $120,000.

In all the schools, 76 percent of students used school health services in some way, she said, around 50 to 100 students per day. Also, around 30 staff members used

school health services, she said, and services were provided to visitors in the schools.

Nurses administer more than 9,000 medications per year, and 37 percent of students in the district have special health care needs.

Moreover, 46 percent of students are overweight, a problem that also is increasing on the national level, Ms. Rivers said.

Health procedures commonly performed by nurses include tube feeding, blood pressure monitoring and asthma treatments. On average, students are out of class 15 minutes for the procedures, she said.

"It's minimal compared to being out of school for a whole day for treatment," she said.

After using health services, 93 percent of students are able to go back to class, Ms. Rivers said - a higher rate of return to class than in other districts.

Also, nurses provide education on nutrition and physical fitness to students and staff, work to increase the number of students connected with primary care physicians and on health care, and direct students to other services, including counseling and mental health treatment.

"I'm pleased to work in a school system that supports the whole child," she said.

Ms. Rivers said computer software and equipment also were purchased for better collection of data and tracking.
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Oct 22, 2009
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