Though the COVID-19 pandemic certainly magnified the necessity for school nurses, we know that this is not a new situation. Professional school nurses are the only staff that can provide surveillance via screening, assessing, and referring students/staff with possible COVID-19 symptoms. In fact, it was a school nurse in New York named Mary Pappas who first identified the H1N1 virus in 2009.
Skilled registered nurses in schools can provide health assessments that go well beyond the capabilities of an unlicensed staff member. School nurses are administrators who manage the health needs of our school communities and assist other employees to manage medication administration, health care delivery, and so much more. School nurses also help to ensure appropriate supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), proper spacing and health-focused cleanliness, and recommended strategies for virus containment.
Though our bill was defeated in 2020, we are not out of the fight. To secure the healthy futures that all students across the Commonwealth deserve, our vision at VASN is to ensure that every K-12 school throughout Virginia employs at least one registered school nurse — and we are already gearing up to introduce new legislation in 2021.
We are calling on all parents, teachers, citizens, PTAs, and administrators to join the fight by contacting your legislators and local school board members to demand this commonsense correction to a long overdue oversight.