Oregon sees extreme shortage in school nurses

Oregon sees extreme shortage in school nurses
Posted on 09/07/2016

BY CAMERON WALKER WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 7TH 2016

 

 EUGENE, Ore. - As a new school year kicks into gear, Oregon schools are short on one important resources: nurses. That’s according to a new report from the Oregon School Employees Association.

 

State law recommends that school districts have a ratio of one nurse for every 750 students. In the 2014-15 school year, Oregon wasn’t even close to meeting that ratio.

 

There was one nurse for every 2,178 students. In the Eugene/Springfield area, around 28,000 kids had access to the equivalent of 22 full-time nurses.

 

Forty percent of districts in the state didn’t have any nurse at all.

 

There are a few reasons for the shortage. One is funding: between 2010-2015, half of school nursing jobs across the state were cut. Another reason is that non-school nursing jobs are quite plentiful with an aging population.

 

According to Jason Davis with Lane County Health and Human Services, nurses get the pick of the litter.

 

“With where they work, what setting they work in,” he said. “And so it really is a buyer’s market in terms of where they want to work.”

 

He added that private sector jobs can generally offer more money than working in a public school.

Additionally, there are more and more kids heading to school.

 

“So now what we see is fewer and fewer nurses available for more and more school positions,” Davis said. “Combine that with the fact that there’s cuts in funding and you have a recipe for disaster.”

 

Davis said school nurses do a lot more than hand out bandages. They teach health knowledge that students use for the rest of their lives.

 

“Back when we had public health nurses in every school, we had much higher immunization rates,” he said. “We had much more adhesion to things like brushing your teeth.”

 

The state legislature does have a law in place to bring Oregon’s schools to the desired 1:750 ratio by 2020. But the question, as ever, is funding. According to the report, that would cost $58 million to $72 million more per year.

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