In order to complete increased immunization paperwork and provide students with privacy, Franklin Learning Center’s new nurses, Creshon Little and Gina Hall, have restricted open office hours to a single hour in the middle of the day.
Two bright pink posters are taped on the nurse’s office door, one with bold text saying “FLC Health Room Hours 12:00-1:00 pm. Open for non-emergent issues. DO YOU HAVE A NOTE!” The other simply states that if you do not have a note then you can not be seen by the nurse.
The limited hours are an improvement over the many days earlier in the school year when the Nurse’s office was completely closed while the nurses completed immunization paperwork. Nurse Little said that paperwork is a problem she inherited from FLC’s previous nurses.
“You had about 600 kids that didn’t have all these shots and there’s 1000 kids here,” said Little. “With y’all having a lot of different nurses here–they weren’t doing what they were supposed to do. So that made my job hard and so I had to, you know, kinda simmer down in the hours.”
Now, however, she has the immunization paperwork under control. Little posted limited office hours of 12-1 PM for non-emergent issues so that she can use the rest of the day to begin vision and hearing screenings and so that she can continue meeting with students who have more regular or chronic issues.
“I see kids that have medical reasons that they got to come to see me so they need their privacy,” she said.
According to Little, the school district allows nurses to choose their hours: “We choose our hours based on what kind of kids we have in our building and what the needs are. If I find that the needs are different, then I can change them.”
Shannon Smith, School Health Coordinator for the school district, said, “the nurse works the same hours as the staff in the building.” According to Smith, school nurses must be ready to see students at all times during their work hours except during their scheduled breaks.
Which students they see first, Smith said, is up to each nurse.
“As a trained professional, what a nurse would assume would be an emergency would be different than what a student or a parent would consider to be an emergency,” Smith said.
Despite her 12-1 PM office hours, Little is available to see students with emergencies all day long but some students and teachers are confused about what is considered an emergency.
“I consider broken bones, bleeding profusely–meaning bleeding that won’t stop–and oh, profuse vomiting … that’s an emergency,” Little said.
As for non-emergencies, Little said “Cramps is not an emergency … that’s not even a sickness that’s a situation … Colds, that’s a situation too, that’s not an emergency.”
The district gives nurses the power to set their own schedule and expects that they use their discretion when prioritizing student needs in the school day, but also acknowledges that some time must be spent on immunization records.
Smith said, “By the school health code from the state of Pennsylvania, they would worry about students with chronic conditions…they would also worry about students’ immunization status.”
Some students are less concerned with nurse workload and more concerned with seeing a nurse when they are not well. Senior Phedora Jean-Phillipe said that the nurse’s closed-door sends the wrong message.
“It gives the impression that she’s unavailable all the time and it’s not a good student-to-nurse relationship,” Jean-Phillipe said. “As a nurse, she’s supposed to be welcoming so that people feel comfortable talking to her.”
For the FLC nurses caught between state immunization requirements, required vision and hearing screenings, and emergencies, forming relationships with students can be a difficult task.
“You have to prioritize,” said Little. “When it’s one person here and it’s 1,000 kids you gotta prioritize–you have to–otherwise it’ll be crazy in here.”