With looming budget cuts, one music and the arts are normally stripped down. Now a new sector is feeling the pressure, school nurses. Some schools have reduced the number of days a nurse is allowed to come in and replace them with health clerks AKA Lunch Servers. This story is just sad:
Ten-year-old Mercedes Mears arrived at Clover Creek Elementary School, in Tacoma, Washington, short of breath. Her sister ran into the office to get help. According to later accounts, Mercedes was in a panic.
The school knew she was both asthmatic and suffered from food allergies — a plan detailing emergency treatment was on hand, as was a supply of her asthma medication and an allergy autoinjector, which would deliver a shot of epinephrine to relax the muscles of the airways. The plan had been signed by the school nurse. But the nurse came to Clover Creek only a few days a week — and that day wasn’t one of them.
Filling in was a “health clerk,” a former lunch server and playground supervisor with no formal medical training. When Mercedes collapsed to the floor, the school staff called the paramedics, but no one gave her an injection, nor did they attempt any form of CPR or mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. When paramedics arrived, six minutes later, Mercedes was in full cardiac arrest and she died of an acute asthma attack.
Mercedes’ parents have filed a lawsuit against the school district, and the case is scheduled to go to trial in June. “The important thing here is that Mercedes wasn’t a kid they didn’t know about. She had a health plan in place that authorized the school to give her medication when she couldn’t breathe,” notes Thaddeus Martin, the attorney representing the Mears family. Might things have gone differently that day if the school had had a registered nurse on duty?