Sick Bays Are Old School

1 September 2019

Being charged with setting up a new school first aid room is a dream-come-true for many school nurses - provided they have a suitable budget and plenty of square meterage to work with. The earlier in the planning process a school nurse is consulted, the better the health outcomes will be for students, staff and visitors to the campus for years to come.

Considerations such as ambulance access, infection control protocols, WH&S legislation, line of sight observation and disability access requirements can be designed in for little or no extra cost, if knowledgeable school nurses are involved early in the planning stage.

Linda Marinos, a registered nurse at Somerville House in Brisbane, was involved in setting up the school’s health centre in a new building in 2011. Two FTE RNs, plus a pool of five RNs used for casual relief work, take care of around 1400 students aged 5-18, (including 99 high-school-aged boarders) and almost 300 staff.

Prepared for everything from viral illnesses and sporting injuries to anaphylaxis and cardiac arrest, The Health Centre team now have two treatment rooms, two short-stay recliner chairs and an 8-bed ward (often used by boarders who have been sick overnight) to manage their patients. These currently include diabetic students on insulin pumps, others with food allergies and unknown allergens, as well as students with asthma and epilepsy. The health centre also boasts plenty of storage areas, locked cupboards, a kitchen, reception area and staff room, as well as two wheelchair-accessible bathrooms.

"I knew what I wanted and saw what everyone could offer", says Marinos of her search for suppliers once the building was completed. Value for money and a next-day delivery service were both important selection criteria. "I’d been using Alpha First Aid for a long time and I also used a local pharmacy."

Rosemary Brown, College Nurse at an independent Gold Coast school, was the first nurse employed by the college in 2012. The next year, space was allocated for a new health room in a new building. Like many school nurses, Brown has made do with the area she’s been allocated, which takes three patients lying and four sitting. The college has 1440 co-ed students from an early learning centre to Grade 12 and around 200 staff on campus each day.

"It is easier using someone local who provides good after-sales service", says Brown about selecting suppliers to work with, conceding price is also a consideration, when managing within a fairly tight budget. "Alpha First Aid had been used [by the college] before. They have run conferences for school nurses and are a supportive company." Brown started with basics and has added useful medical equipment over time.

As all school nurses know, managing expiry dates on Epi-pens and other medication, as well as supplies, is an important and often time-consuming task. Although parents are ultimately responsible for providing in-date medication, Marinos uses EpiClub as an extra layer of support. Alpha First Aid’s distributors also offer a service of auditing first aid kits they’ve supplied to ensure all products remain within expiry dates.

Both Brown and Marinos have attended a few conferences held by School Nurses Australia, the peak body and network for school nurses in Australia. Links on its website about national codes of practice are useful for school nurses. However, networking with local experienced nurses who have set up school first aid centres is an excellent resource for novices. Alpha First Aid also has experienced local distributors who can provide expertise, advice, keen pricing on a full range of products, equipment and furniture, as well as excellent after-sales service for school health centres and first aid rooms.

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