MALIBU—A reduction in nursing staff led to a discussion at the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education meeting on November 18. School district nurses claimed that the reduction has led to an unrealistic workload that stands to put students’ health at risk.

Meg Mahon, who stated she provides nursing services at Juan Cabrillo, Webster and Point Dume elementary schools, proclaimed, “It’s been a very frustrating and stressful year. Nurses are scrambling to keep up and to provide care.” One of the contributing factors to the trying situation is the lack of trained nurses at each school location. The staff generally contains a greater number of health clerks than nurses, which, as the commenting nurses confirmed, is a problem when treating students with special needs such as those with diabetes when the current law in California states that only nurses are allowed to administer insulin. This is also a concern regarding medical assessments. Many nurses also travel from location to location to meet the needs of schools that lack an adequate nursing staff.

A nurse at Santa Monica High School, Nora McElvain, stated, “We can train unlicensed personnel to do tasks. We cannot give them the nursing knowledge and the judgment that comes from many years of nursing school, a credentialing program, and just our day-to-day experience”¦Health clerks are helpful, but they’re not the answer to replace [nurses].”

Many members of the staff have submitted comments regarding their concerns of personal liability. One such concern, read by board Vice President, Kelly Pye, stated, “As an office professional, I am extremely uncomfortable being responsible for the medical needs of others beyond that of basic first aid. I am not adequately trained.”

McElvain also stated that licensed and experienced nurses can save the district money by being able to better assess medical situations versus automatically calling 9-1-1, which may result in a costly ambulance ride.

Board member, Ralph Mechur, stated, “We’re going to have to figure out how to do more with less again.” He continued claiming, “The community wants to see that we are effectively analyzing what our resources are, what our needs are, how we provide services and can we continue to provide services that we do and even some that we’ve lost in an efficient way.”

The board claimed that they may have to spend a portion of reserved funds to solve the problem short term while they review the district’s health services report to come up with a long term solution for the upcoming year.

In regards to the report, Pye was disappointed. “This is not the annual nurse’s report,” she stated. “Talking about office visits [doesn’t] give the full vision of what our nurse’s staff does. This is not the report it’s supposed to be.”