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More than 40 out of 140 school nurses are among the over 1,000 educators in San Diego Unified who will be warned that their jobs are on the line. Earlier this week, I delved into what nurses do and how nursing could change if the nurses stationed at school sites end up being cut. San Diego Unified may expand a pool of traveling nurses to pick up the slack, but it’s still unclear exactly how that would work.

Today I got this schedule that shows the bare minimum that the nurses must do each day across all San Diego Unified schools: procedures like insulin shots (DM on the schedule) or catheterization that have to be done at specific times. It adds up to at least 100 things that absolutely must be done by nurses each day.

“This is our absolute priority,” said nursing manager Jennifer Gorman. “We have to keep these kids safe every day.” Gorman asked us to block out school names as an extra measure to protect student privacy; most are elementary schools and they span the school district from La Jolla to City Heights.

These bare necessities are the bedrock as San Diego Unified tries to plan its nursing for next year. With a shrinking set of nurses at school sites, more of these procedures would fall to traveling nurses.

What makes this really tricky is that many of the procedures have to be done at the exact same time at different schools. Just take a look at the schedule to see what I mean. Some could take half an hour or more, making it hard to get to the next appointment.

And keep in mind that this schedule doesn’t include other required duties that can only be done by nurses, such as health assessments for students with disabilities, reviewing medications, vision, hearing and scoliosis screenings. All of that has to be juggled with these duties. That’s why nurses fear that next year, with fewer site nurses at schools, nursing will become more reactive and less proactive. As I wrote earlier this week:

Traveling nurses can give insulin injections, conduct hearing and vision screenings and do other tasks. …

But nurses and parents fear the budget cuts will make schools slower to sniff out health problems and less nimble in treating them. Nurses say when they float, they find it harder to know the kids and detect problems before they explode. It will only get harder if they have to juggle more schools next year. Health technicians cannot perform all of the same tasks and duties — and they’re under the knife too.

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/emilyschoolsyou.

Emily Alpert

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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