Where do school nurses fit in the return to classroom equation?


Getting students back in the classroom during a pandemic is contingent upon many things.

According to some, it can’t be done safely without one very important piece to the puzzle: the inclusion of school nurses.

The job security of a school nurse has been notoriously fragile. For years, when budget cuts were needed, school nurses were often the first to go.

These days, the argument could be made they are needed more than ever.

The National Association of School Nurses say schools need more than PPE and protocols when class is back in session for in person learning. They need to make room for school nurses too.

Laurie Combe is the organization’s president.  She said. s the current pandemic has changed almost everything.

 “What we practice won’t change,” she said. “It’s anticipated that the workload will change.”

Because right now there are 130,000 public schools in the U.S. K-12. And only 25% of them have school nurses assigned to them.

The National Association of School Nurses is calling for 10,000 more and $208 billion in federal money to help pay for the added personnel and additional resources.

Combe said the demands on a school will no doubt go up. And school nurses should be considered front line workers.

 “School nurses have expertise in public health and in infection control processes as it relates to this very unique health care setting called a school,” she said.

What used to be managed in a classroom will send kids straight to the nurse’s office in the coming school year. Because with COVID-19 still present, anxiety levels will be on the rise too.

And school nurses often recognize that trend first. In fact, the National School Nurses Association claims before the pandemic, 16% of students needed some sort of mental health intervention. 70% of them got that help at school.

 Hundreds of billions of dollars to help pay for the added personnel is a big ask when the federal government is continues to get squeezed from all sides.

 “I recognize it’s a big ask. I also hear that in order for the economy to open, schools need to open,” Combe said.

The “Safer Return to Schools Coalition” requested billions in federal money just two weeks ago. The National School Nurses Association is one of the members. 

It is making its way through the necessary senate offices in Washington.


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