Voice of Alaska: School nurses perform duties with integrity

I am compelled to respond to the article in the Clarion last week in which attorney Peter Ehrhardt, in defense of a client, disparages school nurses in Alaska as widespread forgers (Former school nurse pleads guilty of tampering). He is quoted, “I would guess that 99.9 percent of all school district nurses in the state have done this.”

A number of school nurses from across the state contacted me expressing their outrage over such an allegation. As president of the Alaska School Nurses Association, I chose not to guess, but instead to do some research, to answer the question — do Alaska school nurses engage in such behavior? This is what I learned:

■ The State Division of Public Health, Section of Epidemiology Immunization Program regularly audits school immunization records for completeness and accuracy. Any irregularities discovered that might involve nurse licensure issues would be turned over to the Board of Nursing.

■ The Alaska Board of Nursing says that in addition to the present case, in the last 10 years it has investigated or disciplined only one other school nurse for falsifying an immunization record (the nurse’s own child’s record).

■ Anchorage School District Health Services Director, Nancy Edtl, notes there have been many cases of parents having falsified their children’s immunization records, and those cases were turned over for investigation.

■ Nurses have the highest rating of public trust of all professionals — 82 percent. Attorneys scored 20 percent. (Gallup Poll, December 2013)

■ A survey of 137 school nurses statewide, in response to this allegation, showed that 99.2 percent assert they have NOT falsified immunization records.

There are 130,000 children attending public schools in Alaska; approximately 80 percent have school nursing services available at some level. Ensuring immunization compliance is an important part of the school nurse’s job, as immunization programs protect the public health and improve school attendance. Working with families so that children can be in school, every day, healthy and ready to learn — that is what school nurses do.

Jordis Clark MPH, BSN, RN, NCSN, is president of the Alaska School Nurses Association.

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