Jersey Jazzman documents a crucial shortage in school nurses, who serve multiple roles in protecting the health of children in school.

He writes:

As the coronavirus threat increases in the United States, policymakers are assessing our nation’s capacity to handle a pandemic. One of our first lines of defense — and one I’ve yet to see discussed — is our school nursing workforce.

Ask anyone who has worked for a while in a school, and they will tell you how valuable it is to have a good nurse on staff. This is because school nurses do a lot more than put bandaids on boo-boos. They are, in many cases, a primary healthcare provider for school-aged children. They disseminate information to staff, students, and families. They monitor the health of school buildings and ensure employees and students follow good sanitary practices. They administer medicines to younger students who need supervision. They provide vision, hearing, and dental screenings. They are first responders in emergencies, and the liaison between trauma care providers and the school.

And, as I’ve seen time and again in my career, they are often the first adult a child trusts when that child is in crisis. Countless tragedies have been avoided because a school nurse was there to hear a student’s cries for help.

In the face of the looming coronavirus threat, I think we need to take a minute and ask about the current state of our school nurse workforce. Luckily, there is a very good paper from 2018 that conducted a survey on school nurses. Surveys like these are tough for a variety of reasons, but my read of the paper is that this is a high-quality piece of research that aligns with previous work on the topic. [At this point, he inserts graphs, which you should see by opening his post].

One in five American schools has no nursing coverage. And another one in five has less than full-time coverage. The breakdown by region suggests to me that part of the issue is that we’ve got a lot of rural schools in the West that are probably too small to be able to sustain a full-time nurse. That said, you’d think these schools would find a way to share nurses so they’d get at least part-time coverage. But the data suggest a lot of schools can’t make this work….

The breakdown by urban/rural supports this idea: 17 percent of urban schools have no nursing coverage, while 30 percent of rural schools have no coverage. Still: how did we get to a place where one in six urban schools have no nurses?

Reviewing the data, he finds that 37% of American schools do not have a full-time nurse. Especially at a time like the present, this is unacceptable.

Education Week writes about the nation’s shortage of school nurses, who are critical every day, but especially now in the midst of a global pandemic.

School nurses have a critical role to play as schools grapple with responding to coronavirus.

They can advise district leaders on how best to communicate key information from health authorities to their school communities. They can oversee their school’s tactics for limiting the spread of the virus, through handwashing demonstrations and talking to parents. And their health expertise can help administrators make important decisions about limiting large group gatherings or ramping up cleaning schedules.

But not every school has a full time nurse—or any type of dedicated health professional—to lean on. Almost 25 percent of schools have no nurse all, according to a 2016 workforce study by the National Association of School Nurses. Nearly 40 percent of schools employed full-time nurses, while 35 percent had part-time nurses, the study found.

School nurses do so much more to protect children. After Philadelphia reduced the number of school nurses to cut the budget, at least two children died in schools that had limited nurse coverage after Republican Governor Corbett cut $1 billion of the city’s school budget, forcing the city to lay off 4,000 staff, including reducing the number of nurses from 289 to 179. One child died of an asthma attack in a school where the nurse was available only two days a week, and the nurse was not at the school on that day. School nurses in that city recently protested the cutbacks and the interference of unlicensed administrators; the school system did not replace its sole physician. The Pennsylvania Legislature barred the exclusion of unvaccinated children from school.