Sioux Falls school nurses seeing more complex, increased health issues
The 32 nurses in the district increasingly dealing with behavioral challenges and families in crisis, coordinator says.
SIOUX FALLS — Nurses in the Sioux Falls School District are dealing with more complex issues and specialized care, the coordinator of health services says.
Molly Satter told the school board this week that the number of students who need health care continues to rise and increasingly nurses are seeing behavioral issues and families in crisis.
Satter said diabetes cases — which often require the nurses to help students with insulin shots and blood sugar testing — have climbed by 40 to 94 over the past five years.
Also increasing were cases of asthma (217 to 1,291), seizures (51 to 245) and life-threatening allergies (81 to 437).
The 32 nurses may be the first to identify the warning signs of abuse and neglect.
“I sometimes say the nurses are like detectives, as they figure out if a stomach ache or a headache is truly that or if something more is going on,” Satter said during the school board meeting on Monday, May 8.
The nurses, she said, work with other team members on many of the issues, including playing a “critical role” in mental health care.
“Students often feel comfortable talking to our nurses about their issues,” she said.
Also with the older students the nurses can help by addressing smoking, vaping, drinking, drug use and teen pregnancy issues.
The overall goal, Satter said, is to try to keep students “healthy, safe and ready to learn.”
That also involves helping with assessments, preventative care, shots, common first-aid duties when a student has a minor injury and screenings for hearing, vision, dental and health.
Community partners also help with health cares, such as the Sertoma Lions Club which assists with hearing and vision screenings for all first, third and fifth graders.
There are also Falls Community Health clinics in three elementary schools that give easy access for students to health and dental issues.
The nurses work with Dakota Dental, which in the past year provided help to 385 students for about $380,000 in care.
Two school nurses also addressed the school board.
Azab Hamda, who works at Anne Sullivan Elementary, described how one diabetic student is so good about listening to advice that she is able offer guidance and encouragement to other elementary students with diabetes.
An 11-year veteran of school nursing, Lacey Deranleau, who works at Hawthorne Elementary, said they are first responders and ready to take action when minor or major health concerns arise.
“We are like marathon runners, we are always on the move,” she said.
She also said they are like coaches as they guide teachers and support staff to help them understand the conditions of some of the students.
Deranleau also described the nurses as “cheerleaders” as they help students celebrate wins such as learning how to use an inhaler correctly.
“I also enjoy working with the educators who go above and beyond every day,” she said. “I love coming to work every day.”
School board member Carly Reiter praised the nursing staff, of which about 12 came to the meeting.
“Attendance is so important and you help us to get them there and keep them there on a daily basis. And it does affect their ability to learn,” Reiter said.
Board President Kate Serenbetz said “what a pleasure to have those kids look up to you and really look to you for what they need at any given time.”