SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah has an average of one school nurse for every 5,000 students, so it's imperative that parents of children with medical needs communicate those needs to the schools.
Alexandra Davis, school nurse consultant for the Utah Department of Health, said school nurses are doing the best they can with limited resources, so they count on parents to inform them of any health concerns their child may have.
The health department is encouraging parents to inform their child's school officials as soon as possible about any health problems their child has so they can be dealt with properly. This includes setting up an appointment with the school nurse.
"Usually there are two full-time nurses and a part-time nurse for the Ogden School District," said district nurse Tina Skerl. The district serves more than 10,000 students daily, according to its website. "If we already know of a child's health condition such as diabetes, seizures or asthma, we will mail out a health care plan to the parents in the summer so they can get it filled out."
If the child is new to the school or has been recently diagnosed with a health problem, Skerl said it's important for parents to inform the principal and teacher so they can contact the nurse for an appointment.
"We will either meet with the child and their parents in person or we will get them a health care plan over the phone," she said. "We can even fax a form to their doctor for them."
Either way, Skerl said, it's important to get a plan in place so everyone can care for the child's health concerns.
Parents can help by ensuring their child's immunizations are up to date. Also, ask your school if it participates in the School Injury Reporting System, which tracks student injuries and helps schools identify problem areas, eliminate risks for injury and develops programs to reduce students' risk for injury.
The UDOH also suggests walking or riding a bike with your child to school. Adding physical activity not only benefits your child's health, it's a great way to stay connected in your neighborhood. Utah law requires every elementary, middle and junior high school to create a Student Neighborhood Access Program plan that includes maps of the safest walking and biking routes to school.
Here are some resources to help you keep your child safe and healthy:
- To find your school nurse, visit www.utahschoolnurses.org/HTML/home/districtlinks.html.
- Update your child's asthma action plan and self-medication form. Utah law allows children to carry their inhaler with them if the proper forms are filled out every year. These forms, along with other tips and free resources, can be downloaded at www.health.utah.gov/asthma/schools/backtoschool.html.
- Make sure your child's immunizations are up-to-date. Proof of immunization is a requirement to attend any school, Head Start, or childcare facility. Immunization requirements can be found at www.immunize-utah.org/provider/school/default.htm.
- Update your child's Primary Diabetes School Care Plan. This form gives school nurses important information about the types of medications and monitoring needed, symptoms that may occur, and other special care requirements for children with diabetes. The form can be downloaded at http://health.utah.gov/diabetes/formsmain/schlcp_guide.htm.
Parents and school administrators can also download the School Health Resources Guide, which provides information on many health-related resources, at www.health.utah.gov/obesity/documents/School%20Health%20Resource%20Guide.pdf.