Report Finds 57% of California School Districts Lack a Full-Time Nurse
More than half of California school districts do not have a full-time school nurse, even though the number of children in the state with chronic diseases is on the rise, HealthyCal reports.
Details of School Nurse Staffing Levels
According to a soon-to-be released report by the California State University-Sacramento School of Nursing, 57% of school districts in the state lack a full-time school nurse.
Dian Baker -- a CSU researcher who contributed to the report -- said, "Extreme variation exists across the state regarding the capacity of schools to provide health services for children with special health care needs," adding, "In some areas, the capacity is so low that the safety of these children may be at risk."
The report found that the number of students for whom a single school nurse is responsible varied significantly across the state, from 180 to more than 20,000 students.
The state ranks 45th in the U.S. for access to school nurses, according to the National Association of School Nurses.
In addition, California is in the bottom third of all states for accessing Medicaid school health funding, according to HealthyCal.
Reasons for Shortage
According to HealthyCal, school districts have lowered school nurse staffing levels in recent years as part of cost-cutting efforts.
Instead of hiring nurses, districts have:
- Hired health aides; and
- Trained school staff to administer student medications.
However, such moves have drawn criticism because the state lacks standard requirements for training unlicensed workers to deliver health care services, according to HealthyCal.
Children's Chronic Diseases
Meanwhile, the number of California children with chronic diseases is increasing, with 25% having such illnesses in 2007, according to the Data Resources Center for Child and Adolescent Health.
Linda Davis-Alldritt -- a spokesperson for the California School Nurses Organization -- said the increase in childhood chronic diseases underscores the need for school nurses. "They don't leave their chronic diseases at home when they come to school, so we need to be prepared so that they don’t end up in the emergency room," Davis-Alldritt said (Emerson Smith, HealthyCal, 10/16).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.