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Pediatricians Promote Benefits of Recess

Key Role for School Doctor continued...

"Doctors in schools can be consultants to nurses and connect with the nurse in any way possible," Murray says. "Generally, it is a beneficial thing for schools to have a physician that they can easily identify and go to in case of emergency or policy development."

Miami Children's Hospital pediatrician Gloria Riefkohl reviewed the new policy statements for WebMD. She says that there is a role for school doctors. "They can serve as liaisons between the school and the child's medical home. And this can avoid disconnects between what is going on at school and outside of school."

Cynthia Devore, MD, co-author of the policy statement on school doctors, also stressed the role of liaison for a school doctor. 

"The best medical model for management of seizures or diabetes in a medical setting or home might be a rescue medicine that might frighten school staff who are unlicensed lay persons, like a bus driver or a secretary," she says. "The school physician can be a valuable liaison among the medical home, the school, and the family, educating all parties as to what is safe and reasonable, and working with the school nurse to develop a plan that allows for sound medical management of a child."

The school doctor and school nurse enhance one another's contribution to the school, she says. 

"Every school district should have a school physician who is either a pediatrician or a physician with expertise in children, and every school building a school nurse, ideally a registered nurse or school-nurse teacher," she says. "Together, a school physician and school nurse should be a well-oiled team-machine able to implement the goals identified by the medical home and the family into the school setting."

Changing Role of the School Nurse

Budget cuts and funding issues have threatened the school nurse position.

School nurses don't just dispense bandages and ice packs. Far from it, says Cathy Raisher, RN, a nurse manager at a school in Washington, D.C. 

"There are routine playground injuries and illnesses, vision and hearing screening, but there are also an increasing number of kids with diabetes and allergies," she says. "We are always at a heightened state of alert, as things can occur without any warning."

Parents can help make the school nurse's job easier. "Parents, especially those of children with special health needs, should go to the nurse and make sure they have recent health certificates," Raisher says.

"Bring your child and introduce the child to the nurse," she says. It's also helpful to let the nurse know what to look for if your child is having an allergic reaction or how they may look or act if their blood sugar dips through the day.

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