Students visit the school’s nurses for any number of concerns, from stomachaches to broken arms. However, some students are discontent with the limited help the nurses provide due to the strict laws and regulations regarding medication distribution. Many students visit the health room searching for painkillers, usually Advil and Tylenol. However, the response often encountered upon their request is disappointing. For example, junior Renee Gates* (she/her) said that she was denied when she visited the health room earlier this year to ask for pain relievers for her menstrual cramps.
“They didn’t think it was serious enough, so they just had me stay there for a while until I felt better,” said Gates.
According to school nurses Carol Ward (she/her) and Masumi Rinaldi (she/her), they aren’t allowed to give out medication without a Northshore Medication Authorization form, which must contain permission from both the student’s medical provider and parents. Because of this obstacle, many students carry unauthorized medication to help with cramps or migraines. In fact, out of 63 students surveyed, 41 said they carry unauthorized medication. Senior Whitney Lambert* (she/her) said that she was denied medication multiple times before she started carrying her own Excedrin for her migraines.
According to NSD’s Rights & Responsibilities Handbook, students carrying or using unauthorized over-the-counter or prescription medication are at risk of an in-school or short-term suspension of 1-10 days. These punishments are the maximum action that could be taken if the event was to occur for the first time. Multiple punishments could be applied to a single offense, and if multiple violations occur, the punishment may become more severe.
Recently, GMI included an announcement reminding students that if they need to visit the health room, they need to ask their teacher and get a pass beforehand. According to Desautels, this reminder comes due to students occasionally using the health room as an excuse to skip class.
“It’s pretty common in the second semester where people have kind of forgotten or they didn’t try or things like that. So sometimes you’ll have students that try to find a variety of places to not be in class,” said Desautels.
This rule has caused some complaints from students who were either unaware of its existence before visiting the health room or were hoping for immediate help.
“She got mad because I didn’t have a pass. I was sent back, but it was during lunch,” said Lambert, who visited the nurse due to a migraine.
The passes are also a way to keep track of attendance. The nurses prefer a teacher-written pass over a call or email that a student is coming down. This is because they aren’t always available to check their email or phone. Ward added that sometimes, a teacher will email that one of their students is coming to the health room and the student never shows up. On the other hand, there are students who arrive much later than they should, which has caused the nurses to suspect some are using it as an excuse to skip class.
“Sometimes I see the pass that the teacher wrote 10:40, and students clearly didn’t come to the health room until 11:30,” said Rinaldi. She noted that this issue was more prominent in the beginning of the school year.
Rinaldi attributes students coming in later than their written time to a lack of mental endurance, reasoning that some students’ stamina has taken a hit since COVID-19. In addition to less energy after quarantine, there have been more students going to the nurses for mental health-related reasons or issues.
“We work with counselors and also give resources for that. We used to have a mental health counselor, and so we were connecting students to the right people,” said Rinaldi.
Recently, the nurses visited Lincoln High School to look for some ways to improve Inglemoor during its upcoming remodel. They hope Inglemoor’s new health room will be as beneficial as Lincoln’s. Lincoln has two separate rooms for therapists and a nurse practitioner who can give vaccinations and prescribe medication to a student on the spot.
“Can you imagine that? What the community and culture would look like?” said Rinaldi.
It’s important to keep in mind that while students may have concerns with specific rules and the protocol surrounding the health room, the nurses’ ultimate goal is to keep them safe and healthy, as well as ensure that they stay in class as much as possible.
“I think that our nurses do a really nice job; they work together really well. Sometimes that does include some difficult conversations with kids. But at the same time, they do a nice job keeping people as safe and healthy as possible,” said Desautels. “Our main goal is to keep our kids in class. And our main goal is for kids to be healthy to do that.”