Education

Nurses Fear For Student Safety In Flemington-Raritan Schools

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Flemington-Raritan school board members Dr. Dennis Copeland (left) and Tim Bart. Credits: Curtis Leeds
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Editor's note: This article has been updated to include the official response from the school district.

RARITAN TWP., NJ – Nurses in the Flemington-Raritan School District told the school board last night that they fear for students’ safety and well-being.

Melanie Rosengarten is a parent of two former district students and the nurse at Copper Hill School. She said the school’s software license to Health Office Anywhere expired yesterday, before the information could be transferred to the new software, called Genesis. The software records and tracks student medical information, including their prescribed drugs.

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“Needless to say I was shocked,” Rosengarten said, when she learned of the expiration. “When we go to work tomorrow, that information is not available.”

School board member Dr. Dennis Copeland turned to district Business Administrator Stephanie Voorhees for an explanation and status of the software license.

“I can investigate,” Voorhees answered. “I’m not aware of a contract with School Health.”

School board President Anna Fallon said, “I’m totally unfamiliar with this.”  

Rosengarten also said that because of a nursing shortage in the district, there will be ten days in June when a district school will be without a nurse.

Kathleen Barbee, the school nurse at Desmares school, said district Superintendent Dr. Maryrose Caulfield – who submitted her resignation at the meeting –was told “since the day she arrived here that we are short of nurse substitutes.”

The nurses said they’ve been assured by district administrators that new substitute nurses have been approved by the school board, but Barbee answered that “they haven’t taken the job.”

“There’s the risk ... there will be no one to take care of your child in that school who has any medical training beyond the Red Cross certification that the phys ed teachers get,” Barbee said.

“When you have a child who’s known to have asthma and comes in and feels tight in their chest – parents, do you want your child waiting for the nurse to drive from the other building to administer that inhaler if they’re not capable of doing it themselves?” she asked. “Or do you want to wait for their parent to come in from work in New York to administer it to them?

“Thank God my kids have moved on from here and I don’t have to worry about that for them,” Barbee continued. “But I worry for 423 students in my school, and all of the other students in all of the other schools. When there is not a nurse in the building, bad things can happen.”

Barbee challenged board members to Google “ ‘school nurse saves lives’ and see what comes up in your Google feed. I want you to Google ‘student dies at school. No nurse present’ ” and look at the results.

“Is that a liability you’re willing to take? There are 10 days in June right now that might happen.”

The nurses have offered suggestions that would help increase the pool of substitute nurses, Barbee said, but they haven’t been heeded.

School board member Tim Bart said this is “the first I’ve heard" of the nurse shortage.

“This needs to be solved before students come into the building” on Wednesday, said Copeland.

After this article was first published, Voorhees sent this official response to TAPinto, which we publish here in its entirety:

Student medical data

The correct name of the service vendor is Healthmaster. This is a subscription service. The vendor will be extending the subscription through the end of the school year.

Substitute nurses

The district has been working to improve the number of substitute nurses employed. We currently have six sub nurses within our Board approved sub pool. We will be interviewing another nurse soon. The district has been investigating sub nursing rates to determine if increasing the per diem rate would attract more interest. It appears our current rate falls in line with other schools. We are also exploring the possibility of working with Hunterdon Medical Center to contract substitute nurses if needed. We will continue to work diligently to address the need for substitute nurse coverage.

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