Back to school is already right around the corner, and with the continued challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic across the country, the classroom setting will certainly look different from years past. As we all navigate the new normal, the health and safety of students and faculty should continue to be at the forefront of the discussion.
While schools continue to evaluate their plans for how to return to class this fall, the role of school nurses will be critical. According to the National Association of School Nurses (NASN), many school nurses are the only healthcare provider in the school community, so their role is now more essential than ever. Let’s take a look at some of the factors impacting school nursing right now.
School Nursing Shortage
These days we are inundated with statistics on health, infection, and well-being in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 4 million individuals have contracted the illness and 154,000 individuals in the United States have lost their lives to date. Additionally, at least 8 million more individuals became unemployed in May.
When we look at data for school nursing, the National Education Association (NEA) reported that in urban cities, there is only one school nurse for every 4,000 students. Meanwhile, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that the nurse-student ratio be one nurse per 750 students.
Even more drastically, many schools do not have a school nurse on site. Of those that do, about forty percent only have a part-time nurse and twenty-five percent do not have a nurse at all, according to Donna Mazyck, the executive director at NASN.
From a NASN school nurse survey in 2015, the average age of school nurses was between 47-55 years old, so many could be set to retire soon, creating additional challenges for tackling the school nursing shortage.
The Expanding Role of School Nurse
School nurses have traditionally served select populations of students needing medications or experiencing acute illnesses. Now, the role has greatly expanded. A recent survey conducted by the NASN found that the role of the school nurse includes that of health resource expert and educator as well as responsibilities managing chronic conditions, student outreach, and updating policies and plans.
Of survey respondents across all 50 states, many school nurses saw changes to their roles due to the impact of COVID-19 and school closures.
- 72% were returning medication equipment to families.
- 71% were working on student healthcare plans.
- 54% were doing outreach to students at risk.
- 48% were answering phone calls from parents and community.
- 45% were educating staff on COVID-19 and infection control measures.
- 43% were updating and developing school health policies.
- 32% were assisting with deliveries to students such as medication and food.
New Challenges with COVID-19
Looking at the fall, many schools will face obstacles given COVID-19, especially with the implications for both children and staff. While school districts have refocused the scope of work for their school nurses, there will be even greater need to monitor students’ and faculty’s health in the coming months.
While the future is ambiguous, school districts are slowly gaining clarity on their reopening options and announcing their plans. The CDC also recently released recommendations and guidance for a safe return to schools with information for school and program administrators as well as parents and caregivers. No matter what the school environment looks like, school nurses will undoubtedly be ready to help students, families, and faculty this year.
School Nursing Careers
Despite its challenges, school nursing is an incredibly rewarding career path. As a school nurse, you have the chance to make a huge impact in your community and support children's health and development. It also provides nurses more flexible scheduling and summers off.
Supplemental Health Care is hiring for the current school year and always planning ahead to support our district partners across the country. SHC provides nursing, therapy, and other healthcare staffing solutions to school systems nationwide to meet student needs and support positive outcomes. Whether you’re looking for a school position now or just want to know your options, please contact our Schools Centers of Excellence team today at SchoolSolutions@shccares.com.