School nurses gather in Fresno

FRESNO, Calif.

"We do procedures like catheterizing kids feeding through g tubes, giving injections of insulin, giving medications when children are having seizures."

Diane Durando is the school nurse at Buchanan High in Clovis. She's been honored as School Nurse of the Year at the annual convention of the California School Nurse Organization, underway in downtown Fresno. Nurses are here to learn more about the issues they deal with, like drug use, sexual abuse, and serious illnesses like diabetes, asthma and epilepsy.

"Kids are coming to school with far more serious problems." Durando said.

But while the problems are growing, the ability of school nurses to deal with those problems is getting more difficult.

Katy Waugh is the incoming President of the California School Nurses Organization. "The nurse that was in place five days a week the whole school day is really no longer. That's not the norm. All of us carry more than one school, or many of us carry more than one school."

Most California school districts may have a full time nurse in each large high school, but it's typical that three or four elementary schools will share one nurse. Many school districts are reducing services. Fresno Unified is not replacing nurses who retire or leave.

"We've seen the overall number of nurses shrink by about a third."

Gary Alfredo, President of the Fresno Teachers Association which represents school nurses in Fresno Unified Schools says not replacing Registered Nurses, or replacing them with less qualified personnel is a troubling trend.

"With the number of medically fragile students we have these days school nurses are a vital component to keeping those children in school." Alfredo said.

School nurses receive teachers pay, and since schools are paid based on the number of children in school, Durando says their jobs pay off in more ways than one. "A school nurse today is not someone who puts on band aids. We are the link between education and health."

The school nurses convention continues through Saturday.

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