The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 30, 2008

Carlisle School nurses dispense more than Band-Aids

“Over the last decade the scope of school nursing has changed dramatically,” School Nurse Kathy Horan explained at the May 21 Carlisle School Committee (CSC) meeting. Horan and School Nurse Lori Desjardin presented the school health office manual, which was recently updated to reflect the Massachusetts Department of Public Health revised edition of the Comprehensive School Health Manual. Horan said they refer to the manual daily. It was reviewed and signed off by the school physician, Dr. Aisling Gaughan of Concord.


Besides helping sick or injured students, the nurses’ regular duties include testing vision and hearing, health instruction, measuring height and weight, and calculating body mass indicators. Scoliosis screening is done for grades 5 to 8. Horan has seen a slight increase in allergies, and currently about 4-5% of the students have some form of allergy. “About half are bee and the other half a variety of different foods.”

Head lice can be found in any age group, Horan explained, but “it is usually more quickly transmitted in younger children” who might share brushes or combs. She said the nurses check students when they start school, as some children pick up lice when they attend camp during the summer. “If someone reports a case we check all the siblings and any close contacts and then usually the whole grade level,” she explained. “The child that had the case is confidentially checked each a.m. before entering the classroom. Diligence and team work with the family is usually the most effective way to get rid of this problem.”

“We attempt every day to care for the physical, emotional and social needs of all of our students and families in a confidential manner,” Horan said. She noted they are also responsible for caring for the school staff “in illness, accidents and pregnancies.”

Nurse’s office popular

Horan said the nurse’s office is a busy place, with over 50 visits daily from students. In 2007 they had over 7,000 visits to the nurse’s office. School Committee member Dale Ryder noted the daily visits were almost 10% of the student population. “Yes, we’re pretty popular,” replied Horan.

Superintendent Marie Doyle said her favorite story was when she chatted with a student on the plaza. He had multiple Band-Aids on both arms and told Doyle in a serious voice, “I go to the nurse a lot.” Horan said they run through a lot of Band-Aids, though in some cases an injury is very minor.


Horan says the nurses teach sixth-grade health four days a week. Though there is no formal health program for grades kindergarten through five, the nurses work closely with teachers on topics such as nutrition, hygiene, hand washing and allergy awareness.

She praised fellow nurse Desjardin who, she said, “is a priceless member of our team. Each day Lori goes above and beyond, treating every person who steps through the door with patience and kindness.”

The nurses hold staff training on allergy awareness and the use of the EpiPen (epinephrine dosing device). They periodically hold CPR and AED (Automated External Defibrillator) training.

The nurses usually meet every day as part of the NAG (Nursing, Administration, and Guidance) team with Principals Patrice Hurley and Jim Halliday and Director of Student Services Karen Slack. Slack said they rely on the nurses “instant knowledge of the students’ background” in their discussions of daily issues.


Horan noted the assistance of Business and Grounds Supervisor (and Carlisle Town Fire Chief) David Flannery in arranging transportation to Emerson Hospital in cases of emergencies, which, Horan said, “hopefully happens only once or twice a year.”

Dr. Gaughan is a resource for the school. “All public schools need a physician to refer to with questions,” Horan explained in an e-mail, “She has visited our campus in the past. We on occasion call her with questions. She also calls us at times to educate us on anything new in the pediatric field. We collaborate with her concerning any new policies we are developing.”

Working with Concord

The school has been a part of the “essential school health service” grant for ten years, which provides funds each year to purchase equipment, she explained. “We work closely with the nurses in the Concord school system, particularly in the fall when our eighth graders transition to the high school.”

“Are you plugged into the emergency reporting network?” asked CSC member Wendell Sykes. Horan said they are, and in the case of a disease such as pertussis or whooping cough, a report from the school would go to the central state database. The school would receive notification in the case of an alert to an exotic disease, such as avian flu.The nurses also work closely with Carlisle Board of Health agent Linda Fantasia.∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito