WDAY: The News Leader

Published January 19, 2011, 09:55 AM

ND Legislators propose bill for mandatory healthcare in schools

Milnor, ND (WDAY TV) - North Dakota legislators are looking into your children's healthcare in schools. If you live in Fargo, or any other metropolitan area in the state, it's likely your child has a nurse right there in the school. But what about the students at smaller schools in rural counties? Who looks after them?

In a small school like Milnor, some staff are forced to wear multiple hats.

"Some days are a lot busier than others."

Take Beth Odegard, at lunch time she's in here helping out. The rest of the day she's tackling her other tasks at her desk as the school's secretary.

"Attendance is also something that I take care of."

And when a student feels sick, gets injured or has any other medical problem, Odegard is the school nurse. She'll tell you her background in nursing is nothing more than raising her own children. Some days she encounters cases that are over her head and too complex for the first aid kit in the closet.

"One day, we had a little guy run into something in the gym and knocked his tooth. It was kind of scary thinking that, that tooth was just hanging there and what should we do about it.”

“No kidding, so the tooth was just hanging?”

“Yes by his braces."

Legislators have now proposed this nursing bill. If passed, the state would set aside 1 million dollars. Communities or even counties could then get at that money through a matching grant to hire on a nurse. The person could be part-time or even shared between schools.

“It's providing nurse services hopefully to every student in North Dakota.”

Susan McCullough with the state PTA is a strong supporter of the bill. She says nurses are trained in comprehensive health care, looking after the whole student, physically, mentally and emotionally.

"That helps to take the burden off of school official, so that the medical responsibility is on the school nurse, which fits into her scope of practice and the nursing process."

If it passes, school secretaries like Odegard can stick to their job description. Representatives from the PTA say North Dakota is one of a few states in the U.S. without mandatory healthcare in schools.