More than 200 S.C. schools are without a full-time nurse

129 of the schools don't have a nurse on staff, and 74 have a part-time nurse

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) — As schools set to reopen their doors this fall, some schools will be without a critical person in the fight against COVID-19 — a school nurse.

The South Carolina Department of Education says 129 schools do not have a nurse on staff at all, and 74 only have a part-time nurse.

Now in the middle of a pandemic, school nurses are juggling more duties mixed in with strategically planning how their school will respond to any potential outbreak.

“Immunization compliance, development of health care plans, training of staff and teachers, and now throw on all the contact tracing responsibilities,” said Dawn MacAdams, the Lead Nurse for Richland School District Two.

When it comes to contact tracing, nurses will have to determine close contacts of a student or teacher who tests positive and try to keep them in isolation, but if someone needs to go to the nurse, the set-up might be different.

“The recommendation is that there is a well-health room for your routine medications, injuries, minor illnesses and complaints and treatments, and then have an isolation room for anyone presenting fever, new or worsening cough, shortness of breath, and loss of taste or smell,” MacAdams said.

MacAdams said school nurses are helping school administrators figure out how to allocate PPE to students and staff, where to locate students in need of isolation, as well as contacting parents if students have been exposed to a positive case of COVID-19.

Superintendent Molly Spearman told lawmakers Tuesday that funding is needed to get every school in the state a nurse.

“We have districts to try and fund that, they are trying to find the right personnel to do that, it is not funded by the state, I think it’s something you need to look at when you all come back in September,” Spearman told the House COVID-19 Public Education Committee. 

Even though the goal to match every school with a nurse hasn’t been met yet, MacAdams said nurses are necessary if schools want to be safe.

“No one can do things that a nurse can do. There are limitations to what can be delegated to unlicensed personnel,” MacAdams said.

A handful of school districts are set to start on August 17, with others starting with face-to-face, virtual, or hybrid instruction in the following weeks.

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