(Salt Lake City, UT) – A new report from the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) indicates the state does not meet the national recommendation of one school nurse for every 750 healthy students, or even one nurse for every school. In fact, the state’s ratio of one school nurse for every 4,318 students is one of the lowest in the country.
“Ideally, each student would have daily access to a school nurse, which can improve students’ health, safety, and their abilities to learn. But the bottom line is that Utah is woefully understaffed when it comes to nurses in the schools,” said BettySue Hinkson, school nurse consultant for the UDOH.
Over the past year the focus has been moving away from ratios in preference to student acuity, social determinants of the community, and health disparities. However there remains a heavy emphasis on student to nurse ratios, and according to the report, for each school in Utah to have a nurse, the state would need an additional 959 more school nurses at an estimated cost of $91 million dollars. To meet the national recommendation of one nurse for every 750 students, $68 million would be needed.
“Students are best able to achieve their educational potential when they are healthy. And for many kids, a school nurse is the only healthcare provider they see on a regular basis,” said Hinkson.
Many students have chronic health conditions which need may need interventions while at school. During the 2015-2016 school year, school nurses were responsible for the care of 21,455 students with asthma; 9,606 students with severe and extreme allergic reactions; 2,057 students with diabetes, and 2,372 students with a seizure diagnosis. Many of which had individualized healthcare plans (IHP) and emergency action plans (EAP) as well as a need for medication at school, such as an inhaler, glucagon, or epinephrine, in case of emergencies.
School nurses perform a variety of duties, such as helping students manage chronic health conditions; providing direct care; administering medications to students; developing IHPs and EAPs; training staff and students on a variety of topics from maturation to how to respond to anaphylaxis; and providing vision, dental, hearing, and scoliosis screenings. School nurses also provide essential care for medically complex, medically fragile, and nursing-dependent students.
To download a copy of the 2015-2016 Nursing Services in Utah Public Schools report, visit http://choosehealth.utah.gov/prek-12/school-nurses/data.php.
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