School nurse shortage poses risks to students
- Out of 115 school districts in North Carolina, only five have school nurses assigned to schools — but even then, the ratio is one nurse for every 1,086 students, WRAL reports.
- The average school nurse in the state is responsible for two or three schools, and some cover as many as six schools.
- The lack of school nurses typically leaves school office personnel in charge of administering medications to students, but mistakes, such as giving a student the wrong medicine, can happen.
Attention to staffing shortages in schools have largely focused on math, science and special education teachers, but according to the National Association of School Nurses, only about 45% of schools have full-time school nurses. Another 30% have nurses who work part-time in one or more schools.
Increases in medical conditions among students have also created a greater demand for receiving medical attention at school. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that school administrators have plans in place for how to handle medical emergencies and to consult with medical personnel on creating a plan if a school nurse is not available. Some schools have trained “emergency response teams,” made up of school staff members trained in CPR, first aid and how to use defibrillator.
Other schools partner with health care agencies to provide full-service, school-based health centers, not only for students, but also for their family members and other members of the community. While schools are primarily focused on students’ academic growth, determining how to address students’ health needs can help keep students in school so they can learn.
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