Schools Experience A Critical Nurse Shortage
School Districts Struggle With Lack of Nursescalls forto provide the.in that and so the nurses are able tohaving when
I can remember as a child in school l could go to the nurse for help. Sometimes l just needed an aspirin or to lay down for a few minutes because l had cramps. The school nurse would be a source of comfort until l could return home. A former student of Rose Tree Media School District recalled, “Going to the nurses office included seeing students appear and request their medications for mental health issues.” That was an unusual experience for me. Hearing that the school nurse had to serve as a medical and mental health distributor seemed unique. Times have changed and school nurses obviously serve the roles of medical, mental and educational supporters. During these times of the #pandemic school nurses are spread thin throughout our districts which can be critical and even deadly.
Under the news series, The New Normal School Matters presented on CBS This Morning a notable story was featured. News anchorman Anthony Mason discussed the issue of Critical School Nurse Shortage. “With school districts around the country grappling with how to reopen safely many missing a critical figure, a school nurse. Pre-pandemic estimates showed only 40% of schools in the U.S. have a full-time nurse. That shortage is now especially problematic when having a medical professional on campus is essential. Our Senior Medical Correspondent Dr. Tara Nurula shows us why many districts are now struggling.”
Dr. Nurula interviewed a school nurse named Nole Hinds who admitted, “l cover 20 schools and you know it’s difficult because we’re spread pretty thin.“ Dr. Narula continued by acknowledging, “Across the country #school nurses like Nole Hinds call the situation dire with many of them juggling multiple schools at a time. The CDC’s national recommendation calls for one nurse for every 750 students but most states fall short. California’s average is one to about 2200 students and our district is about one to about 3700 students. So it’s a big problem when we have nurses serving 43,000 kids. During a pandemic with still many unknowns the importance of a school nurse on campus is more critical than ever.” Nurse Hinds continued by giving these facts, “We have over 75 kids who have #diabetes and we‘re doing management of kids with really severe medical problems like severe asthma, sickle cell anemia.”
The job of school nurses are immense based on a discussion with numerous other professionals interviewed by Dr. Tara Narula. “Nurses said part of their job now entails training school staff like teachers and clerks to handle medical emergencies from asthma attacks and #anaphylaxis to seizures. Michael Mulgrew said, ‘It is unfair to put teachers and staff in that position.’ Narula continued by explaining, Michael Mulgrew the President of United Federation of Teachers says the shortage of nurses adds pressure on a already strained system. Narula then asked Mulgrew, What burden does this place upon teachers who then expect to step into that role? Michael responded by explaining, ‘Well that’s been society’s shame for quite sometime now that the teacher can handle everything. Of course they will do everything in their power but they are not medical professionals.’”
It is difficult to comprehend how much of a responsibility school nurses have within districts even more so with the existence of Covid-19. Dr. Narula mentioned, “But for years teachers have been filling the void. According to the National Association of School Nurses 25% of the schools in the U.S. have no nurse at all and 35% only have a part-time nurse. This is a time when nurses‘ responsibilities are expanding.“ Michael Mulgrew agreed as he stated, “They have to make the medical judgment whether it’s Corona or whether it’s something else. Then it’s the isolation of whoever the individual is then coordinating with the Department of Health to make sure that person has access immediately to a Covid test that will now go to our nurse.”
Why if school nurses are so vital, we have so few of them in our districts? Dr. Naurla commented, “Laurie Kombe from the National Association of School Nurses says the issue all boils down to a lack of funding. Laurie Kombe stated, ‘Seventy seven percent of school nurses’ funding is from education dollars and so their mandate is education not necessarily health care.‘ Dr. Narula explains how Kombe, Says they are pushing the federal government for 208 billion dollars as part of the safer return to school coalition to provide the resources needed to make schools safe for opening. Narula also asked Laurie Kombe, As a parent would you send your child to school this fall if that school did not have a nurse? Laurie said, ‘My community has a high rate of transmission. So probably not at this moment.‘“Her response was not only interesting but intriguing where Kombe acknowledged unless there was a nurse in the school she would nor send her child.
What kind of obstacles do the pandemic present to school nurses? Dr. Narula expressed, “The pandemic also presents new obstacles like mental health issues. Area nurses routinely help students says Florida nurse Lisa Kern. ‘They are lifesavers from a physical standpoint as well. They make a difference in the lives of children everyday.‘ Narula continued, Reopening protocols vary greatly from district to district but for schools working virtually nurses are still working on case management for students who have chronic health conditions. There‘re also creating health plans for students in case of an infection. Many nurses say that they are also using this time to adequately train school staff in infection control procedures and processes.”
News archor Anthony Mason concluded the interview by asking Dr. Narula, “Tara we heard some of the nurses discuss the need to be in school for more reasons beyond the physical. What other things do they actually handle?“ She continued by expressing, “Well Laurie Kombe said in the piece really well to me. She said kids come to school carrying much more in their backpack than just their books and homework and so the nurses are able to identify the whole child. lncluding any social needs. Vulnerable children and also to pick up on those emotional issues children maybe having when they come in with a headache or stomach pain when its really anxiety or depressio. So they are really the sentinel on the front line.” School nurses are important within our districts and we really do not have enough of them.
It is my hope and prayer that one day just as Revelation 21:3,4 says in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, “With that l heard a loud voice from the throne say: Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his people. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eye, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” For more information on a time when we will no longer need nurses or doctors because sickness will not exist go to the family oriented Bible based website jw.org.
YouTube video where shortage of a school nurse results in the death of a young girl.
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