Let's Not Get Physical: School Bus Drivers - NBC4 Washington

Let's Not Get Physical: School Bus Drivers

Spotsylvania County drivers want right to choose their own doctors for physicals

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    The slogan protesting bus drivers wore to Monday night's Spotsylvania County School Board meeting.

    SPOTSYLVANIA, Va. -- Some school bus drivers in Spotsylvania County are upset with a new policy requiring them to get physicals from the same nurse practitioner. Some want the freedom to choose their own doctors, while others are complaining of inappropriate behavior during the exams.

    About 50 drivers attended Monday night's school board meeting to protest, wearing buttons that read, "Is there a doctor in the house?"

    When she was hired eight years ago, Katrina Duncan went to the school district's chief medical administrator, a nurse practitioner, for her physical. The exam surprised her.

    "We had to get undressed, and I had to stand there and do calisthenics while she was standing there," Duncan said. "She asked personal questions about my sex life that I didn't appreciate, and I just didn't want to go back and I never went back."

    School Bus Drivers Protest Physicals Policy

    [DC] School Bus Drivers Protest Physicals Policy
    Some school bus drivers in Spotsylvania County are upset with a new policy requiring them to get physicals from the same nurse practitioner.
    (Published Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2009)

    Now, though, she is required to. The district wants all drivers to be examined by its director of health services, Pat Smith.

    "There were specific stories that came out as far as some of the things, extensive questions that were asked about your personal life that had nothing to do with a Department of Transportation physical," said Fred Glover, of the Virginia Education Association.

    Sharon Calahan said she didn't understand why a breast exam was part of the physical, the Free-Lance Star reported. Cindy Robinson said she was told twice that she had a thyroid problem, which her endocrinologist disputed.

    The new policy was enacted with good intentions in an effort to bring consistency to the exam process, said school board member Linda Weiland.

    "We were trying to make it easier for our bus drivers and to have the consistency and, ultimately, it was for the safety of the children," she said.

    After hearing the drivers' concerns, Weiland wants to explore their complaints and make sure drivers have the option to see their own doctors.

    Under the policy, drivers can seek an exemption to go to a different practitioner, but it must be approved by Smith.

    "Personally, I feel backed against the wall that we don't have the choice to choose who -- it's a personal thing," Duncan said.

    Board member Donald Holmes said that as the drivers' employers, the school district does have the right to choose who performs the exams, the Free-Lance Star reported, but any inappropriate behavior by the examiner should be addressed.

    Superintendent Jerry Hill offered strong support for both the policy and the nurse practitioner Tuesday.

    "The statements provided by several drivers were either a misunderstanding of actual events or a misrepresentation by the particular speakers of the events," he said in a statement. "Over a 10-year period, the nurse practitioner has proven herself to be competent and thorough in her responsibilities."

    Weiland said she's heard from some drivers who fully support Smith.

    The drivers are examined yearly.