Budget-Based School Nurse Shortage Affects Children's Health

From cuts and scrapes, upset stomachs and lice checks, a school nurse may seem to have an easy job in the world of medicine. School nurses make up a small percentage of school staff, but are a vital part of the day-to-day activities that occur within schools, managing both preventative and acute medical care for students and enabling children to succeed in education while following medical protocols that keep each student, as well as the community at large, healthy. School nurses provide services to students that go beyond ice packs and band-aids.

Children today face different medical issues that require the monitoring of medical professionals throughout the day. Food and other allergies may require the administration of medication, as well as medical issues like epilepsy, asthma or ADHD. Preventative care, such as eye exams, can indicate further investigation into the health of a child’s vision and monitoring the blood sugar of children with diabetes can help keep students from life-threatening situations. Educating children and staff about different medical issues may also be part of the role of the school nurse, as well as the precise record keeping of medical issues, accidents and other concerns that relate to the health of the students within the school.

With school budget cuts, many districts are unable to employ full-time nurses within a single school, and it is not uncommon for a school nurse to travel between schools, leaving untrained staff and faculty to administer medications or provide medical care in the absence of the nurse. Unfortunately, this practice has led to problems within our schools, including the inability to provide proper medications to students or emergency medical care, resulting in severe health consequences for the students, including death. Today, 25% of schools have no nurse on staff, and only 45% employ a school nurse full-time and as more children attend school with these manageable health issues, the number of nurses unable to provide medical care is a concern to parents, doctors and school staff across the country.



With the complex medical care knowledge required of school nurses, most districts require a school nurse to hold at least an Associate Degree in Nursing, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or RN certification. These positions, while competitive, are essential to the wellness and care of the children in schools who face academic and health challenges. School nurses can provide basic medical care for typical bumps and bruises, as well as save the life of a child with a severe food allergy. The knowledge and experience of these medical professionals is vital to the health and wellbeing of the youngest members of society.

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