Pilot program places full-time nurses at SCS schools to cut down on absences

SCS Le Bonheur Partnership

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - For five years Charnece Brown helped students stay healthy and in the classroom as a school nurse, treating everything from sore throats and tummy aches to giving out medicine.

Now Brown, the nursing supervisor for Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital’s school outreach program, is working to see if a full-time school nurse can boost attendance rates.

“We know that having a school nurse with in the school everyday is a positive. It’s a plus,” said Brown.

Right now the chronic absenteeism rate for SCS is 20 percent compared to the statewide average of 15 percent.

State funding provides for about one nurse per 3,000 students. But the recommendation of National Association of School Nurses is one nurse per 750 students.

It’s an issue as the number of uninsured children in Tennessee continues to rise.

Now a partnership between Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital and Shelby County Schools funded by Urban Child Institute is working to fix that problem. The solution is to give students access to a nurse every day.

“It helps with keeping the kids in school. We provide health education and we can also help to manage any type of chronic illnesses that the students may have,” she said.

A.B. Hill Elementary School, Riverview K-8, Hamilton K-8, Hamilton High School and Magnolia Elementary School are five schools participating in the two-year pilot program. They have some of the highest absentee rates in the district. Many students at these schools miss more than 18 days in the school year.

At many SCS schools, teachers and office staff have double duties as both educator and health care provider.

“Having us there in the school in the schools every day is a weight off their shoulders,” said Brown.

Still in its early stages, the program is showing signs of success. The full-time nurses have returned 93 percent of students back to the classroom rather than sending them home.

Success of this two-pilot program will hopefully grow the number of schools with full-time nurses across the district.

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