Mid-Missouri school districts in need of nurses, substitute nurses

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COLUMBIA - As flu season approaches, some local school districts are in need of nurses and substitute nurses.

Schools in Columbia, Jefferson City, Mexico, Moberly and Harrisburg have listed job openings for nurse and substitute nurse positions. New Haven Elementary School in Columbia hasn't had a school nurse on staff since September.

"It's kind of alarming for parents to hear that we don't have a nurse in the building, but we don't have any children with fragile health needs or serious health concerns," New Haven Principal Carole Garth said.

Garth also said two secretaries in the building are safety certified to handle basic first aid needs. Michelle Reams, an instructor of nursing at the University of Missouri's Sinclair School of Nursing, said handling the basics isn't enough.

"Kids have pretty complex medical needs now in a school setting," Reams said. "We would want a licensed or registered nurse to be administering those medications and monitoring those children while they're in school."

Those nurses need substitutes just like any other teacher would.

Mexico Public Schools posted an opening for a substitute nurse position within the district. Kayla Myers is the nurse at Mexico High School and said she treats 25-30 students a day. She said winter gets even busier, and when a nurse is out, a backup plan is vital.

"Having substitutes that are qualified to take care of the needs of our children is very important," Myers said. "This week I was out twice. We have things that occur at home, too...Having several that we could get a hold of on a daily basis would be good."

Myers also said she felt nurses are important to the functions of schools everyday. She said the National Association of School Nurses is pushing to get a full-time nurse on staff at every school.

"Having a nurse at all times improves attendance, improves academics, saves time for the administration here and the staff," Myers said. "We are accountable for the school health."

Reams also said that she believes each school should have a full-time nurse to handle basic and complex student medical needs.

"It's risky for students to go to school without a nurse," Reams said. "It's especially bad during the flu season. Children have an increased risk for more symptoms if they have the flu, so we need nurses there to recognize that their coughs might be something worse."