A look at student health in Polk County schools

Published 9:30 am Friday, August 26, 2011

Polk County BOE members this summer reviewed the nursing report for last school year and said they were pleased with the increased percentage of students remaining in school after visiting the nurse’s office.
Administrators said keeping students in school, when they are not contagious or seriously ill, reduces lost instructional time and prevents students from falling behind their peers in the classroom.
“Health and education are interdependent,” Kathy Harding, RN, said in her report. “The identification of health-related barriers to learning is crucial to the academic success of every student. Our school nurses work diligently all year to serve the health needs of the students and staff.”
Polk County High School saw 87 percent of students return to the classroom after visiting the nurse’s office for minor illnesses. Other school percentages were:
Polk County Middle School,  85.5 percent
Polk Central Elementary, 85.4 percent
Saluda Elementary, 99.3 percent
Sunny View Elementary, 92.5 percent
Tryon Elementary, 84.7 percent
The report also identified the number of students in Polk schools with chronic illnesses. Seventeen percent of Polk students work with school system nurses every day to manage their illnesses, compared to 19 percent statewide.
The most common of those chronic illnesses are related to asthma – 178 in the system in all. The second and third most common conditions are ADD/ADHD and severe allergies, with 63 and 60 students affected respectively.
Students also suffer from autism, diabetes, migraines and various cardiac conditions.
Last year, nurses administered 180 emergency medications such as epinephrine injections, diabetes medications, asthma inhalers and Diastat. Thirty-seven of those incidents were specifically epinephrine injections for students with allergies.
There are also 62 students needing long-term medication distribution, handled by school nurses, and 32 needing short-term.
Polk schools also screened pre-K, first, third and fifth-graders for vision and hearing last year. A total of 859 students received vision checks, while 1,107 received hearing screenings. Fifty-six students received vision care based on the screenings and two had hearing issues that were addressed because of the screening.
The nurses at Polk schools also took the time to present a variety of subjects related to health concerns to parents, students and staff. Those presentations included subjects such as dealing with allergies, diabetes management, physical activity, personal hygiene and more.

Percentage of students who remained in school after seeing nurse
Polk County High School    87%
Polk County Middle School    85.5%
Polk Central Elementary    85.4%
Saluda School    99.3%
Sunny View Elementary    92.5%
Tryon Elementary    84.7%

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