The nit nurse used to be a presence in schools up and down the UK throughout children’s childhoods. The nit nurse seems to be a logical and necessary service, even if they were once feared and loathed by children. On top of parent’s long list of other stressors, many are now asking themselves ‘where are they now when we need them?’
What is a nit nurse?
It used to be a nurse who came into school to solely check the children to see if they had head lice. This would be a swift and very public process which meant many feared being called in to be checked. They were popularly nicknamed Nitty Nora to generations of children and parents.
When and why did the nit nurse disappear from schools?
The nit nurse started disappearing from schools in the late 1980’s and 1990’s for several reasons. Shrinking health authority budgets to fund the service in schools was one of them.
Back in the day, parents found them effective to find out if their child had nits and head lice. However, the health authorities thought they weren’t an efficient use of tightening budgets which is why they scrapped them.
The shrinking local health authority budgets came at the same time as the criticism of how the nit nurse worked in an inefficient and often humiliating way for the children. There was a belief that the in-school service was both inefficient and discriminatory for the children.
So, in the end, there was a shift in thinking. Checking and treating head lice ended up being the parent’s responsibility and not the schools.
Can we have them back?
Head lice infestations have increased and the head lice treatments have become less effective. Therefore, there have been a few attempts to bring the nit nurse back into schools. With the rising prevalence of head lice that attention has turned back onto schools where children spend their days and where head lice can be picked up.
There has been a survey on netmums.com which found overwhelming support for the nit nurse to be reinstated. There have also been petitions to the Number 10 website and to the Welsh Assembly. None of them has been successful in reinstating a nationwide policy to reinstate them in schools.
It’s not only the parents that are fed up with head lice – schools dislike head lice too. Not only do they bring disruption to the home, but they also upset a school community and the relationships within them. They create tensions between parents and between parents, teachers and the Head.
What techniques did nit nurses use to check for head lice?
The nit nurse of the past would run a nit comb through a child’s hair. By past accounts, this would be a pretty brutal process, hence why children feared them. It was also quite public which brought a degree of humiliation with it as everyone in the queue could see if a child had lice. After the check, you would get a bottle of head lice treatment to take home and help clear them.
The modern-day nit nurse does exist
In 2006, The Hairforce started as a unique nit and head lice removal service. Since then, The Hairforce does not only clear nits and head lice, it also operates a nit nurse service that goes into schools. The Hairforce checks classes, whole school years or whole schools for nit and head lice infestations.
This modern-day nit nurse service is a much kinder, and more glamorous version of the nit nurse of the past. The service gives the school and its parents the professional help they all crave.
How does the Hairforce nit nurse operate?
The Hairforce professional nit nurse service is just that, professional. Privacy and sensitivity are key so that when the Hairforce Lice Assassins are checking the children no one observing can work out if any child being checked has head lice or not.
The Lice Assassins check in such a way that they do not reveal what they see or find by following and completing the same process for everyone. The Lice Assassins record the information and a qualitative assessment as to whether there is a light, medium or heavy infestation.
The experience is unusual, interesting and fun. Multiple numbers of Lice Assassins work at the same time. Therefore, the process is quick and efficient and the children can get back into the classroom. Parents then get the information directly via email, so the whole process is private. The whole experience is a long way from the one of Nitty Nora over 20 years ago.
What is the benefit of the Hairforce nit nurse service?
Besides being a positive and enjoyable experience for the children. Additionally, the nit nurse service creates a point in time that focuses the parents on the head lice issue. If The Hairforce comes into a school, then parents get combing their child with a nit comb. If they find something, they are then motivated to clear it, so their child is clear by the nit nurse’s visit.
It is an extremely useful way to get everyone working towards the goal of clearing a school of head lice. Regular checks mean the head lice issue can be always nipped in the bud and everyone can then get on with more harmonious school life.