Nine more flu related deaths have been reported in Colorado bringing the total to 34. Already seven children have died. Last month the virus forced one school in District 51 to close after half of the students and teachers called in sick, but with more cases of swine flu expected will school nurses be able to keep up?
Registered nurse Tammy Fletcher oversees three schools in District 51, Palisade High School, Orchard Avenue Elementary and Taylor Elementary. She can't be at every school everyday and with thousands of students she relies heavily on health assistants. Fletcher says, "We do delegate a lot of our tasks and duties to health assistants." This year she's not just dealing with sick kids, she also has to prepare the school for the H1N1 virus. "It's definitely time consuming," says, Fletcher.
District 51 has 13 registered nurses for just over 22,000 students. "We have one registered nurse for approximately 1700 kids," says Tanya Marvin School District 51's Nursing Services Department Coordinator. But the National Association of School Nurses recommends one nurse for every 750 students. Marvin says the district would like to hire more nurses but they just can't afford it. "Comes down to budget," says, Marvin. "RN's are more expensive you're paying for the license you're paying for the experience."
District 51 employs 37 health assistants, one for almost every school. They are certified in CPR and first aid they are also trained by an RN for certain procedures like administering certain medications and screening for H1N1 virus. Marvin says, "We've developed a triage system for them to be able to go by to know whether that student needs to go home or not." Nationally Colorado ranks around 40 for the ratio of students to nurses. Marvin says, "Actually Mesa County is sitting better than much of the state."
But despite the low number of nurses in District 51 Fletcher says, "We do a very good job in our district of utilizing what resources we do have."
District 51 Officials are confident they can keep students safe and healthy through the H1N1 flu season.