Waterville Community Elementary School nurse Reyne Pohl said a similar model has been used in other school systems.
“There are some other states that do this. I did some research on it just to see what other schools were facing,” Pohl said. “When I did my research, I was really seeing that a lot of schools face this very problem.”
Many times retirees are limited in how much money they can earn because of Social Security restrictions. Pohl said this would be a way for them to make some money with out going over limits.
Filling in as substitutes would also give retirees an opportunity to keep their nursing licenses current.
Substitute nurses fill in when regular staff need time off. If a school nurse gets sick or has a sick child, the school system needs someone to cover that school for the day.
Pohl said Bradley County Schools has a nurse at every school. How often the nurse is at the school depends on school population and students’ needs.
“The big determining factor is critical diagnosis,” clinic nurse manager Misi Austin said.
Schools with students who have diabetes or those who are prone to seizures require a nurse every day. Other schools may only need a nurse three times a week.
“In our school we have 640 students and three CDC (comprehensive development classes). We have some very sick kids here, and there needs to be a nurse here all the time just for the safety of the kids,” Pohl said. “If I get sick or my kids get sick, I need someone on a quick notice who can cover me.”
The school system has approximately eight substitute nurses available. However, scheduling conflicts with their other jobs have created a need for more.
Many of the substitutes right now are fairly new to nursing.
“Its not that we don’t appreciate the news nurses, we just need someone with more flexible schedules.”
Pohl said she feels because most retired nurses have more flexible schedules they should be able to more easily relieve the stress of not having substitutes available.
“I have a very busy office. I see about 40 to 50 students a day in this office,” Pohl said.
Much of this is monitoring students as they take daily medications. Having nurses on-site who can administer emergency medicine is also important.
The idea actually came to Pohl from her mother during a discussion of not being able to use sick days because no one was available to cover for her.
Pohl started as a substitute nurse before taking a full-time position with the system.
“I’ve been the substitute nurse, so I understand having a full-time job and trying to work that in on your days off,” Pohl said.
Nurses have also worked to keep records on students and their needs. Notebooks of needed student information are kept to ensure substitutes will know the medical needs of each student, if any.
Substitute nurses must be registered nurses and each must have a current Tennessee driver’s license. Pohl said positions are constantly opening.
‘“It’s kind of a high turnover,” she said.
The Waterville nurse said sometimes substitute nurses will specify a specific grade range or school that they want to work in. She said this further complicates the coverage puzzle. These issues sometimes lead to a nurse having to split time between two schools.
The need fluctuates as well.
“The need tends to fluctuate with the season,” Austin said.
As the weather gets colder and flu season escalates, the need for substitute nurses rises.
To apply, visit www.bradleyschools.org and click on “Job Opportunities.” Then click on “Job Applicant Manager” to find the school nurse substitute application.