LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A new House bill, HB1826, looks to mandate ongoing professional development for school nurses in Arkansas. 

The bill specifies that at least one school nurse takes professional development dealing with school nursing specifically as part of their licensing. 

“We are trying to make sure our school nurses are equipped to take care of our students in the schools to improve their healthcare because I directly see a connection with how a student feels to how they perform academically,” Sponsor of the bill State Representative Julie Mayberry said.

She says their workload requires a lot of them and ongoing training is vital.  She said school nurses see “anywhere between 50-60 students a day.”

Sherri Poe is the school nurse for Benton Middle School and was recently named the Arkansas School Nurse of the Year. 

She said being a school nurse is not the same as a clinical nurse.

“I almost felt like when I came to work here 23 years ago that I needed ER experience because you just don’t know what’s going to come through that door,” Poe said.

She despises the saying that school nurses “only hand out band-aids.” “We give meds, we give lots of TLC, we get lots of phone calls, especially this year with Covid, we dealt with a lot of phone calls, lots of questions, we deal with a lot of injuries,” Poe said.

In the 2019-2020 School Nurse Survey Data nurses dealt with over 15,000 injuries ranging from dental injuries, sprains, and head injuries. 

There are also over 97,000 chronic illness cases in the state’s schools.  Over three-quarters of those are asthma and ADD/ADHD cases. They also deal with diabetes, seizures, and anaphylactic reactions and the medications for all of those issues. 

Poe said the ongoing training school nurses have received in recent years deal with those exact issues.

“We talk about diabetes, asthma that’s a lot of our students, emotional problems we might encounter with students, how to document and the legal aspect,” Poe said.

She understands many school nurses may not be able to get those training from their state conference meetings.

“A lot of the nurses in the state don’t always get to go to our state conference so they might miss those extra hours that are taught so I think it would be a great idea,” Poe said.

The bill also recommends a school nurse in every school building in the state but does not require it.  Mayberry said when she was elected in 2013 there were approximately 750 school nurses across the state and now there are 1,018 school nurses.  Mayberry said, “To many families that school nurse is the most important person on that campus.”

The data survey also showed over 43,000 staff and faculty encounters.  A majority of those were for first-aid administration and blood pressure check but also had interactions for education, injections, and rescue medications. 

The bill is scheduled to be heard in Wednesday’s Senate Public Education Committee meeting.