Liz Pray’s enthusiasm for the first day of school rushed over her as she put her mobile phone up to snap back-to-school selfies with new school resource officers the other week, just as it has in prior years.
Pray, a school nurse, was, nevertheless, apprehensive as well. As a result of the highly infectious Delta coronavirus strain now circulating in the United States, as well as rising tensions over masks and vaccination mandates, this school year will be unlike any other she has ever encountered.
Continuing School Nurse Shortage In The US Has Reached Critical Proportions
Prayer has provided care for young children in four separate elementary school buildings within the Moses Lake School District, which is in central Washington state, during the course of the last seven years.
She will now be responsible for older pupils at Moses Lake High School, which has a total enrollment of more than 2,000 kids. Pray is one of about 96,000 full academic nurses in the United States who will be faced with an uncertain school year ahead of them.
Before the pandemic increased their workloads and changed their day-to-day responsibilities, the United States was dealing with a scarcity of school nurses, exacerbated by a lack of funding.
When her first day was completed, Pray had taken on a mountain of paperwork that was an inch thick. She found time for only a single bathroom break and then managed to eat a late lunch around 3:15 p.m. Putting the pandemic aside, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States advises that schools have a full-time nurse for every 750 pupils. Despite the fact that kids and schools may need nurses now more than ever, it is believed that approximately a quarter of schools still do not have any nurses on staff.
According to the most recent data from a government school nurse workforce study, which was the issue of the Journal of School Nursing in 2018, approximately 39 percent of schools employ full-time nurses, approximately 35 percent employ temporary school nurses, and 25 percent do not employ the school nurses at all. It was discovered last year by the University of Washington’s Center of Education Data and Research in Seattle that the average student-to-nurse ratio in the state of Washington during the 2019-20 school year has been one nurse for every 1,173 pupils on average during the 2019-2020 school year.
For years, the nation has been suffering from a lack of school nurses, but the situation is now dire. According to Pray, she spent the summer doing the things she usually does, such as checking records to ensure that students are up to date on routine immunizations and organizing files for students with chronic illnesses, among many other back-to-school duties. Still, the workload was significantly heavier than in previous years.
The presence of a great deal of stress may be felt immediately. As a result of the pandemic, Pray now has additional responsibilities, such as planning Covid-19 testing strategies and pop-up vaccine clinics, analyzing ways to disinfect surfaces as well as improve air ventilation, preparing for potential Covid-19 outbreaks, and dealing with disgruntled parents who may be opposed to masks or vaccines.