July 21, 2010

School nurses say improved ratio could save lives

Voice: June 2010

Each school day, Pennsylvania’s school nurses face the stressful potential of pinballing back and forth between schools in order to safeguard students’ health. The Pennsylvania School Code requires just one certified school nurse for every 1,500 students, making travel between several buildings a daily possibility for PSEA school nurse members.

Hope, however, is on the horizon. PSEA school nurses and their colleagues nationwide are lobbying hard to push Congress to pass the Student-to-School Nurse Ratio Improvement Act of 2009. The legislation would provide grant money to states to improve the ratio of students to school nurses, and to study the impact of such an effort.

The NEA and National Association of School Nurses (NASN) support the legislation. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, schools should have one nurse for every 750 students.

School nurses say that, particularly for states struggling to fund education and health services, the legislation could help save children’s lives.

National research shows that hiring more school nurses increases attendance and achievement, and decreases dropout rates. Other national research shows most parents would approve a tax increase to fund a full-time school nurse.

“Lowering our unsafe ratio can only result in improved health, attendance, and school success for our students,” PSEA Department of Pupil Services President Maggie Beall said. “It can only lead to better instruction from our teachers who do not have to worry about sick students; more  protection for ESPs being asked to perform medically unauthorized procedures; and a stronger, healthier community.

“Our school population has changed dramatically, and school nurses are seeing more behaviorally complex and medically fragile students. The days of the school nurse simply being there to give out Band-Aids are gone. Today, school nurses are dealing with a host of complex health concerns, from drug and alcohol abuse, to eating disorders, to teen pregnancies and obesity.”





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