Nursing

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School Nursing in Small-Town California: Much More Than You Think

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Bernice Arnett, school nurse for the Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District, is in charge of student health at the district’s seven public schools. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)

Editor’s Note: School nursing is more than Band-Aids and ice packs. Nurses help students with complex medical conditions and tough home lives. Bernice Arnett is a nurse for seven schools in Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District — two Central Valley towns just south of Modesto. This month, our ongoing health series called Vital Signs focuses on prevention. Arnett talks about how she’s working to keep students and families in her community healthy.

By Bernice Arnett

There have been days where I have visited all seven sites in one day. But I was doing reactive nursing rather than proactive nursing. There were times that I’d have to actually triage in my head what I should go do first.

You treat the whole student. Sometimes you treat the whole family. And a lot of times, families are desperate. They don’t know where to turn. Continue reading

Debate Over Role of Nurse Practitioners in Primary Care Responsibilities

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner examines toddler. (Chris Richard/KQED)

A pediatric nurse practitioner examines a toddler. (Chris Richard/KQED)

An estimated 6 million Californians will be eligible for insurance under Obamacare — about 5 million through the Covered California marketplace and more than a million people via the Medi-Cal expansion.

Yet, just 16 of California’s 58 counties have enough primary care doctors right now. To try to improve access, California legislators are moving bills to expand “scope of practice” for such midlevel health providers as pharmacists and nurse practitioners. In general, such bills would allow certain health providers to practice more independently. Right now, in many cases, they must be overseen by physicians. More autonomy could open access for underserved groups.

But some of those ideas are being hotly debated in Sacramento.

The toughest scope-of-practice sell right now seems to be nurse practitioners. Earlier this week, SB 491, which would expand nurse practitioner duties, failed to get out of committee. It will be up for a vote again next week. State Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), an optometrist himself, joined KQED Forum Friday to discuss the bill. He said California needs to “utilize providers within their training” to help ease this “huge access problem in primary care.” Continue reading