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Ask the Expert: A Pediatric Nurse on the Importance of Booking School Physicals

Our latest in the "Ask the Expert" series comes from registered nurse Lora Cartmell.

I used to be a school nurse, and August was a crazy time for us in the health offices of elementary, middle and high schools. "Did you get your school physical?" "Did you get your sports physical?" -- those were the questions I asked every parent, guardian, grandparent and yes, sometimes even the family dog. 

Photo by chickenlump on Flickr."How many months is a physical good for?” "Do they need a physical every year?" "What shots do they need?" "Can you take them home and raise them for me?" were the many questions that came back to me.

A great tool for you to keep up and be "in the know" for the current school year buzz on school and sports physicals is to hop on your local school district website and check the Health Office page or the Nurse page. Believe me, they would MUCH rather you look on the website than for you to be the lucky 100th caller to their office to ask the same thing as the previous 99. (You could get a very grumpy school nurse; not that I was EVER one.) If you can believe it, most all school districts even have the forms online, so you can print it out and get it filled out before your visit to the doctor (Hint, hint.)

Because my kids went through the Geneva school district, I thought I'd share with you what the wonderful school nurses there put together so you can get an idea of what to look for. 

Now I am a nurse in a pediatric office, and the questions this time of year are mostly still the same. The answer is a resounding "YES!!" Get your kids in for their school or sports physicals like YESTERDAY! Get ahead of the crowd! Jump to the front of the line! Give me an A-P-P-O-I-N-T-M-E-N-T!! (In my best cheerleader voice, with a megaphone in my hand!)

When the clock is ticking and you forget to schedule your appointment ahead of time, it is very hard for doctor’s offices to work you in on "same day" appointments in the few weeks right before school starts.  And if you are a parent or guardian like me, by the time the end of August hits, um, you are SO ready for those beautiful angels to actually be able to start school! If they throw a fit and don't want to go get their physical, just blame the law, or you can TOTALLY blame the school nurse. It's her fault that your kids have to get shots!

On my last note, please give your local school health professionals a big thank you when you return those forms early. How many kids go to your child's school? Because that is how many physicals they go through one by one to make your child's educational experience a safe and healthy one.

Have you picked up the phone yet to call?  If not, I've NOT done my job today!

Lora Cartmell is a registered nurse, wife and mother of two "men children" (aka, college students). She is a longtime resident of Chicago's western suburbs. She previously worked as a school nurse but is now employed at TLC Pediatrics in St. Charles, where she wears "Hello Kitty" scrubs to work and finds peace in the Clifford the Big Red Dog room.

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