Best Practices for Schools Without a Nursing Staff

By Linda Childers

There’s nothing like a rousing game of volleyball or running a lap around the track to break up the school day. In addition to being fun, school gym classes promote good health, camaraderie, and have been shown to help boost academic performance. 

Yet despite the many benefits of physical education, accidents can happen. A 2009 study conducted by the Center for Injury Research and Policy of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio found the number of physical education-related injuries to elementary, middle and high school students in the United States increased 150 percent between 1997 and 2007.

According to the study, the most common physical education-related injuries were lower-extremity sprains and strains (23 percent), followed by upper extremity sprains and strains (14 percent) and fractures (14 percent).

Many factors put students at risk for injuries including:

  • Poor monitoring and supervision of children during gym class
  • Inadequately maintained equipment
  • Lack of school personnel awareness of injury prevention
  • Lack of knowledge of appropriate safety procedures
  • Risk-taking behavior among students

With a nationwide nursing shortage making school nurses a scarce commodity, many private schools have devised innovative solutions to keep students healthy and safe whether they are in gym class or on the field.

At a private high school in Portland, Oregon, all of the physical education teachers are trained in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and First Aid. In addition, the school has purchased easy-to-use automated external defibrillators (AEDs). Statistics show that having AEDs and an emergency resuscitation plan in schools makes a big difference – roughly 9 out of 10 high school athletes who suffer a cardiac arrest survive when an AED is available and CPR is used.

Additional Safeguards

Another private school – this one in Boca Raton, Florida – is fortunate to have two school nurses on campus, but they have also implemented a number of safeguards to protect student athletes.

The school’s PE teachers have radios they can use to communicate with the infirmary as well as the athletic trainers when injuries occur during classes. If a student is injured during a physical education class, they are evaluated and treated by one of the school’s nurses, and if it’s an orthopedic or sports related injury, the radios make it easy for the nurses to ask the athletic trainers to help with the evaluation.

In addition, the school’s athletic training room is equipped with splinting and wound care equipment, an ultrasound, an electrical stimulation machine, Game Ready units (ice compression), hydrocollator (moist heat pads), whirlpools, and rehabilitation equipment to treat acute injuries as well as rehabilitating athletes back to their pre-injured state.

Looking for other ways to ensure that your school is doing all it can to protect students? In addition to implementing safeguards, schools can prepare for the unexpected by taking out a student accident insurance policy. School Accident Insurance can provide another layer of protection in the event a student is injured during gym class, while also protecting schools from potential lawsuits. While the coverage can vary from provider to provider, it can include medical expenses, counselling, home tutoring, and others related to an injury. Your insurance agent can help find the coverage that’s right for your school.