School nurses in short supply

Schools in the northern Emirates are scrambling to hire more certified nurses amid fears of swine flu.

Abu Dhabi School Health Services launches an awareness campaign on the H1N1 virus.
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Schools in the northern Emirates are scrambling to hire more certified nurses amid fears of swine flu. In some areas, principals reported that several schools were forced to share a single nurse at the beginning of the school year.

The shortage was seen as a major obstacle to the implementation of the Government's strategy to combat swine flu. The Ministry of Health announced last week it would place 170 additional nurses in schools throughout the country. Some of those began working this week in the northern Emirates. Ten new nurses started in Ajman, and an education official there said the emirate had nearly achieved its target of one nurse and at least one visiting doctor for every school.

Forty new nurses also began working this week at schools in Sharjah. In Ras al Khaimah, officials were hiring new nurses, partly with the help of Abdullah Rashid al Nuaimi, a prominent businessman who donated Dh100,000 (US$27,000) to help recruit more nurses. In Abu Dhabi, nurses attended lectures last month aimed at educating school staff on how to spot H1N1 symptoms, what to do when a child falls sick, and how to keep parents calm. The lectures were organised by the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi and the Abu Dhabi Education Council.

School officials said the discussions were helpful, although one nurse said no special training was needed to deal with swine flu. "As school nurses, we need to be able to watch out for the symptoms and teach students proper hygiene," said Liqyi Babu, the nurse at the German International School in Abu Dhabi. Officials also handed out informational brochures to be distributed in schools. C Inbanathan, the principal at Sunrise English Private School in Abu Dhabi, said all schools had been given instructions on how to prevent swine flu and what to do if a student is diagnosed with the virus.

"Our school nurse attended the training provided by Adec, then conducted her own training in our school for our staff," he said. "We have met all the requirements." Mary Thomas, the principal at Little Flower School in Abu Dhabi for children in grades one through five, said her school's nurse attended one of the lectures along with some teachers. Those staffers then offered guidance to other workers at the school, she said.

Also in Abu Dhabi, School Health Services (SHS) has launched a swine flu-awareness campaign in 303 state schools to educate students about the virus, officials said. All SHS nurses have attended courses and workshops on the virus, and SHS will distribute pamphlets and posters to students and send out three million e-mails informing students and their parents on how to prevent the spread of the disease.

Dr Hatem al Gusain, manager of SHS, said schools were considered a likely place for swine flu to spread because of the concentration of people. "People frequenting small or large gatherings, such as in buses, schools or any crowded places, should follow the basic guidelines and necessary precautions to avoid the spread of this disease," he said. "These include washing hands regularly, eating healthy food, consulting a doctor immediately in case of the appearance of any symptoms and taking complete rest until recovery."