As Natalie Barnouw ’21 ran through the field, her eyes fixed on the rolling soccer ball, she tripped, tumbled to the ground and felt a sharp pull in her ankle. Distracted by the pain, Barnouw limped across the field and toward the trainers, who she hoped would diagnose her injury. What she thought was a minor ankle sprain was determined to be shin splints.
Barnouw said that her experience helped her recognize the convenience of having trainers who are familiar with sports-related injuries on campus. She also wonders about the availablity of medical assistance to students who do not play sports without a nurse on campus, she said.
“I think the trainers are great sources of first-aid before receiving additional outside help,” Barnouw said. “They’re not only a resource directly on campus, but also a very reliable and knowledgeable source, [particularly for athletes]. Especially if the injury is a minor one, going to the trainers first can save a lot of time and unnecessary hassle.”
Many school do not employ school nurses.
According to the National Athletic Trainers Association, 70 percent of public schools provide some level of athletic training services, while 58 percent of private schools offer similar services. In comparison to the number of athletic trainers, there are fewer nurses employed in schools. 25 percent of schools across the United States don’t employ a nurse, while 40 percent of schools have part-time nurses, according to the National Association of School Nurses. Many of these part-time nurses work at multiple schools during the day, overseeing hundreds of students.
Khyra Stiner ’21, who participates in track and field, said that having a nurse stationed on the school campus would be convenient for students not involved in sports.
“I believe that adding a nurse would better suit those with smaller issues such as headaches or small pains,” Stiner said. “I know a lot of people who have decided to just deal with the pain for the rest of the day because of either the hassle of going to the trainers or the expectation that they would not be as helpful for a non-athletic injury.”
There are benefits to having a school nurse on campus.
Sarah Rivera ’21 also said that having a nurse located near the center of the campus would allow more students to have quick access to medication and medical advice.
“I think the school could consider adding a school nurse as a sort of collaboration with the trainers so there’s one place on campus for all kinds of situations, not just physical injuries,” Rivera said. “It would definitely benefit the students by providing an easier place to access medication or medical care other than the deans’ offices.”
Although Barnouw does agree that a school nurse would greatly benefit the school, she said that she disagrees with having a nurse who cooperates with trainers. Instead, she prefers a nurse who functions independently from trainers and focuses solely on giving first aid to students who don’t play sports.
“I think [having a school nurse] would be great,” Barnouw said. “I think having a nurse whose main job is first aid, apart from the trainers, would be very useful. Knowing that there is someone available to help all the time during school would be very reassuring.”
Athletic trainer Tiara Wells said that working with a nurse who deals with other medical issues would help trainers focus on physical injuries while students seek medical advice from a specialized nurse.
“I would love it if we had a school nurse on campus,” Wells said. “While I am familiar with many general medical conditions, athletic trainers are mostly trained in musculoskeletal conditions. A nurse would be helpful for the students that do not participate in athletics here at school and when they get sick with the flu or cold.”
However, Jack French ’20 said that there would be minimal, if any, benefits to having a full-time nurse on the school premises.
“I don’t think [having a nurse on campus] would make a big difference,” French said. “[Trainers] are trained medical professionals. There’s only maybe slight differences in what [trainers and nurses] learn. It’s all generally the same.”
Some believe that there are benefits with a school nurse, but others disagree.
Although the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that schools employ at least one registered nurse, many schools do not follow this guideline. The National Association of Nurses considers this shortage of nurses a “national crisis,” because it poses a danger to students at school.
Ayden Chi ’22 said that although he has not been affected by not having a nurse on campus, it would be potentially life-saving in a serious health situation.
“I think a school nurse would be a positive benefit,” Chi said. “We don’t really have a person on campus who can provide us with professional medical care or knowledge.”
Head of Upper School Laura Ross said she believes that trainers are adequate enough to attend to students’ injuries.
“Because we always have multiple athletic trainers on campus, there’s always somebody who is trained to help with an emergency,” Ross said.
However, in the case of smaller medical needs, students have places to seek help. Ross said that although a nurse would provide benefits at the margins, ultimately she believes that the school provides enough options to help students deal with their medical issues.
“Generally, people come to the main office, to [Upper School and Deans’ Office Coordinator Camille Da Santos, and Assistant to Head of Upper School and Deans’ Office Coordinator Lynn Miller], ” Ross said. “If there is an actual injury, they will then coordinate with the trainers, and people can obviously go straight the trainers, but [Miller and Da Santos] call the trainers if they need something more specialized.”