Lynden School nurses play integral role in student safety

Lynden School nurses play integral role in student safety
Posted on 11/14/2017

From scrapes to tummy aches and full-fledged medical monitoring needs to the welfare of entire school buildings, Lynden Schools has a group of nurses working for the safety of the school population.

“It is reassuring to know we have medical professionals at the school for a student need or staff need who are maintaining safe and healthy climates,” says Tim Metz, Lynden Schools director of special programs. “It is an essential part of the school program that isn’t always recognized.”

And it all starts with Kathy Vanderveen, head nurse for Lynden Schools. The registered nurse (RN) works out of her home base of Isom Elementary where she also serves as the school nurse. Each of the elementary schools has a near-full-time nurse, with part-time nurses working at both the middle and high schools.

The list of duties varies from building to building, often based on that year’s student population, Vanderveen says.

The school nurses assess the study body and determine which students fall on a four-degree scale of medical fragility. The lowest needs often mean the student requires a check with a registered nurse from the school once a year, often to monitor seasonal allergies. The next level up means students need access to a RN once per week, even if they don’t always meet with the nurse. Those students include those who have adverse reactions to foods, insects or more. “They are a little bit higher on our monitor to make sure things are safe in the schools for them,” Vanderveen says. The next level up requires that a nurse of some level remains in the building at all times to be on hand to deal with seizures, feeding tubes and other potential needs. The highest level, which Lynden currently does not have in its population, requires a nurse be with a student at all times due to the significant medical needs.

“We make sure all the students are safe with updated healthcare plans,” Vanderveen says. “Everybody that needs to have something special done for them in the classroom to keep them healthy and safe will have a healthcare plan. Maybe we need to make sure an area is kept clean so they don’t get sick or make sure they have access to a ramp or elevator if they are unable to climb stairs. That is all in the healthcare plan.”

“We have kids who have pretty significant needs that we want to make sure we can monitor and support,” Metz says. “We have the person in place with the expertise.”

Along with monitoring all the medically fragile students, school nurses monitor every student to ensure up-to-date immunization, based on state law. Nurses also watch for infectious diseases, including the flu, measles, mumps and whooping cough. “We watch our kids to make sure they are not getting the flu and we watch the adults around the kids to make sure they are safe and they go home when they need to,” Vanderveen says.

School nurses, all of which have either a BSN, RN or LPN certification, serve as community health nurses too, which means they treat students, staff and anyone associated with the school family.

Metz says he hopes the community becomes aware of all that the school nurses handle and that any parent with a child in the school system with a unique health need contacts the school nurse to discuss the situation. “We have to rely on parents to let us know if their child has a health condition, even if it is a small condition—and we know no condition is small for a parent,” Vanderveen says. “We really need to know if a child has a life-threatening allergy that requires immediate medication, if they have food intolerances, if they are on medications at home, if they have asthma, ADHD with or without medication and so on. We do provide medication administration at school, when the medication is needed during school hours, and we also support parents and family members who are dealing with ill children, either acute illness or a chronic condition.”

Along with all the real-time health needs that come up each day and the continual monitoring of students and staff at both the micro and macro level, nurses also handle staff education, reminders and annual vision and hearing screenings.

“We are blessed to have support from all staff,” Vanderveen says, “as most realize how busy we are, doing multiple tasks to keep everyone as safe as we can.” Karen Matheis, LPN and district nurse, says she feels fortunate to have the support of the administration and community to have at least a part-time nurse in each of the school buildings.

Mary Young, LPN and LHS school nurse, says from the responsibility of keeping records, handling the medication kept in the office, devising care plans and dealing with the physical and emotional needs of the students, “it is never a job where you sit and wait for something to do.”

Through it all, whether a bruise from the playground or a serious ongoing medical issue, all the nurses strive to offer an inviting home for students, Vanderveen says. “To have those students feel they can trust me and come in when hurt or when not feeling well, whether a physical ailment or emotional ailment,” she says, “it is just a safe place for the child to go. That is with all of us.”

The best part, though: “I get lots of hugs,” Vanderveen says. “Even when they are happy I still get hugs.”