Cedar Falls may eliminate all staffed nurses - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Cedar Falls may eliminate all staffed nurses

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CEDAR FALLS (KWWL) -- Cedar Falls School Board members are making some tough budget decisions. They're considering three options for trimming the district's spending by as much as $1.5 million. All three would eliminate the current registered nurses on staff, but kids would still have immediate access to medical help.

Cedar Falls is contemplating switching to the same model Waterloo Community Schools have used for more than a decade. Its working for their neighboring district.

But some Cedar Falls citizens are worried about the proposal, and Executive Director of the Iowa School Nurse Organization, Sharon Yearous, said she's incredibly concerned as well.

The state recommends providing at least one nurse for every 750 students. They require one in every district. The majority of schools in Iowa do not meet the recommended nurse-to-student guideline. Currently Cedar Falls exceeds the ratio, employing approximately one nurse for every 485 students. But having a full-time registered nurse in each school is a luxury Cedar Falls schools may no longer be able to afford.

"We have to make the budget numbers work, and we have to make some tough decisions," explained Superintendent Dave Stoakes.

Those tough decisions may mean terminating all of the current nurses on staff. Their positions would be outsourced -- potentially to Black Hawk County Public Health. They already work with Waterloo Community Schools.

"Under that contract we provide six RNs and one health assistant in each of the buildings," said Public Health Executive Director Bruce Meisinger.

This is similar to what Cedar Falls would use. There would always be at least one trained medical professional in the building.

"We know some children have diabetic issues, some children require feeding tubes, and in those situations the health assistant can be trained to help with those issues," said Stoakes.

Meanwhile, a registered nurse would supervise two or three buildings.

"If the expertise or skill of an RN is called for, the RN can respond in a matter of minutes," noted Meisinger.

This plan could save the district nearly $70,000 a year. Stoakes said if they don't make the cuts in nursing, they would have to find the funds somewhere else.

Yearous argues, it's cutting a valuable resource for families. She believes school nurses are an important link between parents, teachers, and regular doctors.

"An ongoing client-nurse relationship allows for establishment of trust and knowledge of physical, emotional, and social history," said Yearous, adding "healthy students make better learners and healthy graduates make a healthier workforce in Iowa."

Online Reporter Colleen O'Shaughnessy

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