Lynda Burlison, head nurse and health service coordinator for the Glendale Unified School District, discussed some of the challenges nurses are facing as they continue to work with reduced resources while attempting to educate students about the dangers of swine flu, severe allergies, diabetes, sexually transmitted infections and other health concerns.
ZAIN SHAUK: Do public schools have too few nurses?
LYNDA BURLISON: In California in general, I would have to say there are a lot of districts that have very few nurses and it has to do with state funding. In Glendale, we’re very lucky; we have more than many districts have.
Q: With resources being strained, how overwhelmed would nurses be if they had to respond to something like an H1N1 virus outbreak?
A: When you respond to an H1N1 outbreak, sick kids are going home. So we’re not actually taking care of them at school. It’s a lot of information. It’s a lot of education for parents.
We get lots of parent phone calls that the nurse has to answer. We get questions about immunizations. We set up immunization clinics for our staff. We make referrals for our students. So it’s more work in that sense, and in our health offices we might see an increase in students to send home, but in terms of if there’s an outbreak, the sick students are at home.
Q: How do the limited resources affect how nurses operate?
A: Well, you do what has to be done. For example, we used to do more classes on CPR for the community, for teachers, for our staff.
Now we only do what is required, and anybody who needs a CPR class has to go to the Red Cross or to another place to get it.
Q: How are students being served if there aren’t enough nurses to staff each site?