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School district has 40 nurses for 80K students, says board candidate

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School district has 40 nurses for 80K students, says board candidate

By Matt Grant. CREATED Sep 14, 2012

FORT MYERS - If your child is injured at school, chances are the person treating them isn't a registered nurse, according to a school board candidate.

When Michael Murray, 12, fractured his collar bone at Mariner Middle School on Wednesday, the school's clinic misdiagnosed the injury as something "minor." 

"My arm snapped backwards," said Michael, "and I hit my head on the ground."

Michael was on the verge of tears but says he was just given an ice pack and sent on his way by a woman working at the clinic.

After two days of asking, the school district has not said if that woman was a registered nurse.

"She just rolled down my sleeve, said it was something minor and dismissed me to the guidance counselor," said Michael.

"She told you it was something minor?," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant.

"Yes," said Michael. "Something minor."

Michael stayed in school five more hours. When his mother picked him up, and saw he was in tears, she took him to the emergency room.

Medical records show Michael suffered a fractured clavicle. He has to wear a sling for the next six to eight weeks.

School board candidate Bob Chilmonik called the situation "simply unacceptable."

Chilmonik says the district only has 40 RN's for 80,000 students.

"On any given day," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant, "if a child is hurt at school what are the chances that they're going to see a registered nurse?"

"Pretty low," said Chilmonik, who called that unacceptable.

Florida ranks 48th in the nation when it comes to nurse to student ratios. According to the National Association of School Nurses, Florida schools have an average of one nurse for every 2,537 students. The association recommends one for every 750 healthy students.

"If there's not an RN at every school who's treating these kids?," asked Grant.

"Well," said Chilmonik, "you have someone treating them that may or not be qualified to do that."

Chilmonik says the district's RN's handle multiple schools depending on where they're needed. He blames a lack of funding and says when he was on the school board he sat through a half dozen presentations by school nurses concerned about a lack of staffing.

"So why was nothing done before?," asked Grant.

"It goes to the priority of the board," said Chilmonik. "And how they spend their money."

Fox 4 reached out to the Lee County School District on Thursday and Friday. We wanted to know if the person who told Michael his fractured collar bone was minor was a registered nurse. We also wanted to get their side about nurse staffing levels.

We did not hear back.

Chilmonik says he would like to see the transportation budget reduced and the savings go towards things like hiring more nurses.

Matt Grant
mgrant@fox4now.com