To the editor:

With the commencement of the current legislative session, it should be of interest to all of us who cherish Utah children and see them as our future resources to watch the progress of HB77.The adoption of this bill would affect the health and safety of more than 435,000 children statewide. This bill would mandate a school nurse to student ratio of one nurse for every 5,000 students to provide comprehensive school health services.

The days of a school nurse in every school have long been over. In fact, school nurses on average cover 9,000 students or about 10 to 20 schools. When a child is ill or injured, it is the rare occasion when the school nurse is able to care for him.

School nurses have traditionally provided many valuable services: vision, growth and scoliosis screening, communicable disease control, triage of illness and injury, first aid and health counseling.

But today, our world is more complicated. For instance, more Utah children are living in poverty and access to health care for children is limited. Frequently, students come to school with untreated illness and injury.

In addition, modern medicine and portable technology have made it possible for more children with chronic illness to return home and to school. Asthma and heart disease in children are increasing. Disorders, once considered lethal or life-limiting, are being better managed so that children live longer and better lives.

Schools are being asked to administer oxygen and medications, to provide specialized care to students with ventilators or other equipment and to plan for emergencies. The need for school health services is greater than ever.

Pat Shifflett, president

Utah School Nurses Association