GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- Guilford County Department of Public Health School Nurse Patricia Peters begins her day at McNair Elementary. Her first duty is to look in on her little buddy.
"Hey Mckayla. How are you today?" Peters says.
Mckayla is a little under the weather. But there is another reason why Mckayla is visiting the school nurse. She is getting a reminder on how to use her inhaler.
"Show me how you use your inhaler," Peters said. "Make sure you are using it right."
Along with dispensing medicines and taking care of emergencies, school nurses also help students and parents manage chronic health conditions like asthma, severe allergies and diabetes. School Nurse Supervisor Susan Hawks adds school nurses lead classes about healthy eating and hygiene.
"We promote healthy fitness," Hawks said. "We developed a program called 'Smart Heart' for fit kids. The nurses present it to first-grade students."
Last year Guilford County school nurses managed over 8,000 health care plans and had over 4,000 visits. So the 33 school nurses have a lot of duties they perform at the three to five Guilford County schools they cover. But soon school nurses will get some much needed assistance. The Guilford County Board of Commissioners is providing funding for four new nurses. That means 37 nurses will cover 125 Guilford County Schools. Plus Hawks said the new school nurses will provide health care assistance during the summer.
"There are a lot of summer school sessions," Hawks said. "So we need to take care of those students while they are in school as well as we are able to continue to case manage those students that have chronic health conditions. They need to be ready when they return in August."
Hawks said another reason why four new school nurses are needed is that there are more Guilford County Schools extended year and middle college programs.
While maintaining the health of thousands of students can be a challenge, Hawks said their work is rewarding.
"We work in an academic environment, so we want to enhance their ability to become academically successful and productive adults."
The Guilford County Department of Public Health is currently interviewing to fill the four school nurse positions.