Many California Schools Lack Nurses Amid Nursing Shortage, Budget Issues
Almost one in 10 students in California -- more than 600,000 children -- attend schools in districts that do not have a nurse on staff, and about 2,800 nurses provide care for the other 5.7 million students in the state, the Los Angeles Times reports.
According to the Times, the lack of school nurses in California has resulted in large part from the 1978 passage of Proposition 13, which reduced funds for schools, and, "as the state's ongoing fiscal crisis continues to squeeze school budgets, hiring nurses is not a top priority." California law only requires schools to provide medical care for special education students and spinal, vision and hearing exams -- which often are conducted by private companies hired by schools -- for all other students.
In addition, a national nursing shortage has left schools "competing for the same few nurses" as hospitals, according to Gayle McLean, who oversees 35 nurses for the 62,000-student Santa Ana Unified School District. "It's very difficult to find nurses that are well-qualified with the specific skills needed for schools," she said.
In place of nurses, "minimally trained, unlicensed staff members," such as secretaries and attendance officers, often provide care for students whose conditions range from a "runny nose" to "chronic illnesses that require potent medications and daily treatment," according to the Times.
Karen Maiorca, nursing director for Los Angeles Unified School District, said, "The type of children coming to school today has changed dramatically. If we could have a nurse at every school, students would be a lot safer." Maiorca added that many students in low-income school districts do not have access to regular medical care outside of school (Rubin, Los Angeles Times, 3/20).