Waterloo Road, the fictional Rochdale Comprehensive school appears to have a resident school nurse. This is just as well, as Waterloo Road has its fair share of medical emergencies, to which the nurse is often summoned. The nurse has not merely been referred to, but has, occasionally made a cameo appearance.
In last week’s episode, new boy Freddie Jackson collapsed whilst playing football. Superhead Michael Byrne intervened at the crucial moment by instructing Phoenix Taylor to “go and get the nurse”, as opposed to calling the emergency services. Thankfully, Freddie survived and went on to protest to his mother that he was fine, supported by Michael Byrne who assured that “the nurse has checked him over thoroughly”. Perhaps the Waterloo Road nurse is a cardiac specialist, and the medical equipment of the Waterloo Road sick-bay are the envy of schools across the land.
Waterloo Road is, however, a representation of reality, rather than reality. The latest NHS workforce figures indicate that there were 1158 full-time equivalent school nurses in England as of July this year. There are also around 23, 400 state primary, secondary, nursery schools, and pupil referral units . In short, schools are unlikely to have a resident nurse. Waterloo Road is exceptional in this regard.
The importance of school nursing was highlighted in the 2004 Department of Health’s Choosing Health: Making healthy choices easier. About the school nursing service it stated:
“…we will modernise and promote school nursing services, expanding the number of qualified staff working with primary and secondary schools so that, by 2010, every cluster of schools will have access to a team led by a qualified school nurse.” (p.8)
This is far from one nurse for every school, rather, it is access to one, who may not be full-time.
The roles of school nurses are varied too. Nitty Nora is an outdated stereotype as school nurses administer HPV vaccines, deliver advice on sexual health, monitor height and weight, provide advice on health related issues for young people, as well as contribute to child protection conferences. This is quite different from the image portrayed in Waterloo Road. While a trained first aider will be on hand in the case of accidents on the playing field, this is not a routine part of the school nurse.