What School Nurses Are Facing

A typical day for a school nurse can include administering student meds; sitting in on students’ Individualized Educational Program (or IEP) meetings; triaging kids with runny noses, rumbly tummies, and broken bones; providing mental health support; making sure students stay up to date on vaccinations; looking through students’ hair for lice; screening students for eyesight and hearing impairments; preparing EpiPens and any other necessary medical supplies for field trips; and educating staff to administer said devices on said field trips. And all that’s when there’s not a pandemic raging.

Many high school nurses see 60 to 70 kids per day, or about 10 per hour. In Minnesota, there is only one licensed school nurse per 1,403 students (the National Association of School Nurses recommends one per 750, and a much lower ratio for students with daily health needs). Without a professional nurse, some kids with complex health needs can’t go to school, says Deb Mehr, health services coordinator of the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan school district and president of the School Nurse Organization of Minnesota. But since Minnesota law only requires a licensed school nurse if there are 1,000 or more students in the district—and only requires one LSN in a school district of 6,000 students—two-thirds of Minnesota students don’t have access to a licensed school nurse. Schools without LSNs often get by with other staff who aren’t necessarily licensed nurses.

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