When a child gets hurt at school, the first stop is often the nurse’s office, and the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District is no exception.

According to a 2017 News-Miner article, RN positions were not cut from the district, but getting and keeping the positions filled was difficult. So the school district changed the model to include hiring other health professionals to cope with the lack of RNs, which is an ongoing problem.

“The district faces the same challenges recruiting and retaining qualified professionals to fill this role as other health organizations. While we continue to recruit for RNs, we expanded the health services staffing model approximately two years ago to include licensed practical nurses and health assistants,” Yumi McCulloch, school district spokeswoman, wrote in response to a News-Miner inquiry.

The school district has 15 registered nurses, six licensed practical nurses and four health assistants, McCulloch said, and they expect to be able to fill the remaining vacancies within the next few weeks.

Twenty-six schools comprise the district, excluding homeschool programs, alternative learning programs, schools of choice and charter schools. All three positions do not exist at every school, either, with staff assigned based on the needs of particular schools.

“Nursing services staffing is a shared services model. RNs, HAs, and LPNs are hired as districtwide employees and, as such, staffing adjustments are made across the district based on acuity levels at each school. The district’s goal continues to be to employ an RN in as many schools as possible,” McCulloch wrote. “At this time, Salcha Elementary School currently has an unfilled vacancy.”

As staffing levels vary from school to school, when a school does not have a registered nurse, but has a health assistant or a licensed practical nurse, McCulloch said, a registered nurse from another school provides oversight. She noted that when a school is without a nurse, principals designate back up staff trained in giving medications or providing basic first aid and who work with students who aren’t feeling well, while serious injuries are dealt with by contacting emergency services.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect that the district uses licensed practical nurses, not licensed nurse practitioners. Licensed nurse practitioners have a higher level of training.

Contact staff writer Kyrie Long at 459-7510.  Follow her on Twitter:@FDNMlocal

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