PFA Tips: The Role of Your Child’s School Nurse
By Sharon Saks, M.Ed, RN, BSN, Certified School Nurse
If your child attends school, there is likely a school nurse who is responsible for the health needs of the school population. The school nurse works with students, families, teachers, school psychologists and counselors. They are responsible for the medical needs of every student and personalizes care for students with IEPs and 504s, if necessary.
Involve the School Nurse
Request that the school nurse be involved in IEP and 504 meetings, especially if your child has any other medical conditions, such as seizures, asthma and digestive issues. They are the link between the medical world and the education world and can be an invaluable resource to families. They work with teachers and other members of your child’s educational team to develop a behavioral plan-of-care. Every child with autism is unique and has their own way of communicating and calming. It is important the school nurse knows the best way to help your child if they would have to visit the school nurse during the day.
Become familiar with the School Health Office
Your child should visit the school health room on a regular basis, to say “hello” and to get to know the school nurse. The school health office is slightly different from the doctor’s office. There is not a doctor present, but many of the procedures are the same, such as taking a temperature and doing a blood pressure. Most school nurses will never give shots, which is a relief to almost all children. A social story could be created for visiting the school nurse during the school day if your child needs to take medicine or gets sick or injured during the day.
Medications at School
The school nurse should be made aware of any medications your child is prescribed and should be updated whenever changes are made. This includes medications your child takes at home. If your child needs to be given medicine during the school day, school districts usually have strict policies regarding when medication is given at school. For example, students are not allowed to bring in or take medication on their own, nor are just any school personnel allowed to administer medication. Only the school nurse is allowed to give a child medication. The medication must be dropped off in its original container along with a doctor’s prescription order. The order must contain the student’s name, the medication name and the dose, when and how often it should be given. The school nurse keeps a detailed record when medications are given, which can be helpful if you are trying to determine if a medication is working or if there is a reaction of some sort.
Sickness or Injury
Children with autism may experience pain and illness differently. Communicating about how your child may act when sick or injured will help the school nurse determine the best way to help your child. For example, they may not like the feeling of a Band-Aid on a scrape, but may tolerate a gauze wrap, or whether to use an ear or forehead thermometer.
Success in School
Your child’s school nurse is an essential part of your child’s educational team. One of her main goals is to keep your child safe and heathy and able to learn.
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