More registered nurses added to Austin ISD schools

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More registered nurses will be added to Austin ISD’s comprehensive health services program following parent concern over a lack of medical coverage at district schools.

Tracy Spinner, assistant director of AISD’s comprehensive health services, appeared tonight at the AISD board meeting to update trustees on recent changes to the program.

Since 1996, AISD has contracted with Seton Healthcare Family to provide health services to students. The program is currently funded by the district at $7.1 million; however, Seton has agreed to contribute another $1.8 million to fund the recent increase of registered nurses.

On Sept. 13 the district announced it would hire 33 more registered nurses to serve across grade levels over the next few months. Once hired, the total number of registered nurses in AISD will increase to 74. Fifty-four certified health assistants will also be available to assist in the absence of a nurse.

Health care coverage will vary based on grade level, Spinner said, including:

  • high schools: will be staffed by a full-time registered nurse and a half-time certified health assistant
  • middle schools: campuses of 700 students or more will be staffed by a full-time registered nurse; campuses of 350-700 students will be staffed by a half-time registered nurse and a half-time certified health assistant; and
  • elementary schools: campuses of 700 students or more will be staffed by a full-time registered nurse; campuses of 350-700 students will be staffed by a half-time registered nurse and a half-time certified health assistant; and campuses of less than 350 students will be staffed by a full-time certified health assistant and will share a registered nurse with three other schools of the same size.

Three AISD high schools have also implemented the use of virtual health care clinics, according to Kristi Henderson, Seton Healthcare Family’s director of student health. In case of illness, students at McCallum, Crockett and Eastside Memorial are connected via webcam to a Seton physician or nurse practitioner.

Trustee Ann Teich wondered how much it would cost to employ a full-time registered nurse at every AISD school. Spinner said the baseline cost would amount to about $13 million.

Spinner’s department has also formed a parental advisory group to provide informed feedback to the district’s superintendent about the long-term student health services model and best practices for medical care. The group will meet once a month starting next week, she said.

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