When California teachers recently agreed to settle their strike with the Los Angeles Unified School District, one of their stipulations was that 340 school nurses be hired by the 2020-21 school year. With current ratios estimated to be approximately 2,500 student per nurse, more and more teachers have reportedly felt obligated to provide basic medical care to their students when a nurse isn’t available. With this scenario being mirrored throughout California, filling school nurse roles is more urgent than ever. The challenge could prove difficult, however, with the school district offering a significantly less salary on average than a registered nurse can earn working in a hospital. This, coupled with the fact that California has already been grappling with a lingering nurse shortage, has forced schools to think differently about the way they market their school nurse openings.
School Nurses: An Essential Role Often Overlooked When Budgets Are Short
Rates of chronic childhood medical conditions like obesity and asthma are on the rise, which has only added to school nurses’ increasingly unmanageable workloads. With everyday responsibilities that often include assessing students with chronic conditions and life-threatening allergies, hearing and vision tests, ensuring children have the medication they need and following up with students who miss school because of medical conditions, a nurse’s role in a typical school would seem indispensable. Additionally, studies have shown that having a full-time school nurse working in partnership with teachers and kitchen staff can ensure positive outcomes, including reduced absenteeism and improved achievement of students overall. However, as many teachers have noted, when funding is short, cuts usually occur in non-academic positions, first. And that includes nurses.
Emergencies Are Unpredictable. School Nurse Availability Shouldn’t Be!
Currently, many nurses are forced to divide their time between several schools to address overall shortages. Teachers have voiced concern that should an emergency occur without a nurse readily available, student’s lives could potentially be in danger. While teachers have increasingly stepped in to help with minor medical care when a nurse isn’t available, should a student have a true medical emergency, such as a seizure, only a nurse with the proper medical training to deal with such issues will suffice.
Looking Ahead: The Future of School Nurse Shortages and Availability
Because one of the main drivers of the current nursing shortage is a lack of professors available to train nursing students, increasing salaries alone won’t do much to help schools address increasing demand. Schools are encouraged to entice nurses by focusing on the benefits of working for a school versus a hospital. Many nurses report burnout working in hospitals, which are increasingly filled with older patients battling multiple chronic conditions. Some of them may consider working with children, as well as more favorable working hours, a good trade-off to a higher salary.
Are you looking for a way to address your school’s current nurse shortage and increase positive outcomes? Speak to one of our account managers today about our customizable solutions, today! Call 1.877.630.2044 for more details.