Local public school system to hire more school nurses
LIVINGSTON PARISH - School nurses are needed in Livingston Parish for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year, education officials say.
As of Thursday, the Livingston Parish School Board has approved a proposal from the superintendent to hire 17 new licensed practical nurses.
The move will increase the district’s total of nurses to ensure that there is one for every elementary campus.
“The COVID pandemic has increased the demand for healthcare professionals to be on our campuses to respond to the needs of our students,” Superintendent Joe Murphy said. “This is especially the case for those students who lack sufficient private healthcare. In many cases, our school nurses are the frontline providers for these children.”
At the moment, Livingston Parish Public Schools has 28 fulltime school nurse positions, including 17 registered nurses who serve multiple campuses.
In addition to servicing students at multiple campuses, the registered nurses supervise the LPNs on staff. The new hires will increase the district’s total count to 49 school nurses.
School Nurse Coordinator Jennifer Wilkinson said the district’s need for on-campus medical staff has increased greatly over the past year due to COVID-19 guidelines. She noted that school nurses have been required to do contact tracing for students and staff throughout the year, and those health guidelines will remain enforce for the 2021-2022 school year.
Wilkinson also said student medical needs have increased considerably over the years, as more students have identified special needs that require greater care from licensed professionals rather than unlicensed staff or paraprofessionals.
For example, she noted that diabetic students may need nurses to calculate their insulin dosage and administer their daily intake of insulin.
School nurses routinely administer medications and care for students, arrange health services for students with disabilities, and perform vision and hearing screenings across multiple grades to identify health concerns that would limit a child from learning. Their services decrease absenteeism and improve the overall health of the individuals.
“We’ve easily seen a 20 percent increase in school nurse services in just the last five years,” Wilkinson said. “The level of care that is required for many of our students must be administered by a licensed professional, and often, even specialized training in certain types of care is required.”
Murphy noted that the district will be able to seek reimbursements from Medicaid for many of the nurses’ services to the district’s underprivileged population. He said the nurses will receive specialized training on those allowable expenses and reimbursements.
“Because of the need that’s in our district, we are anticipating that 50 percent of the salaries for these new hires will be covered through Medicaid reimbursements,” Murphy said. “Clearly, we will be meeting a need that the federal government has recognized as one it will assist in funding.”
Murphy said the new hires will be placed on a one-year contract to allow the district to evaluate the benefits and sustainability of the positions. The annual cost to the district is approximately $800,000, however through the ESSER grants and the anticipated Medicaid reimbursements, the initiative has the potential to be cost neutral. Each newly hired LPN would receive a $47,000 package that includes salary and benefits.
Murphy noted that this initiative will be in place during the 2021-2022 school year and will allow the district greater flexibility and response to the COVID 19 pandemic, as well as offering more comprehensive health services to the students in the district.
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