Should Jesuit hire a school nurse?

Written by: Virginia Larner

November 2019

When it comes to availability of school nurses, Oregon has a serious shortage. The state is ranked #47 on the list by the National School Nurse Association, and students and parents are starting to wonder if they are medically safe attending schools that do not employ an on campus nurse.

Jesuit is among the majority of schools in Oregon that lack a school nurse. When students are sick at school they are sent to Mrs. Pieratt and Mrs. McQueen. They determine if the student should be sent home depending on the severity of the illness. There is also a heath room in the office where students can lie on a bed or wait in one of the five chairs.

“If the student has a fever or has vomited they are automatically sent home,” Mrs. Linda Pierrat said.

When a student is severely injured or has fainted there is another protocol. Teachers radio the office for assistance, then the Director of Security and members of the administration report to the location. They assess the injury and alert the parents as well as determine whether 9-1-1 should be called.

 

While it may be easy for any administrator to send a student home who isn’t feeling well, there are many students with more serious illnesses who may not be receiving the attention they need when there is no available school nurse. Students with type one diabetes who need to actively monitor their health might be one demographic who benefit from having an on-site nurse readily available.

Parents of students who require more extensive medical care might wonder if their children are being adequately cared for at schools where there is no nurse present. Additionally, school nurses can offer medical advice to students who are not receiving information anywhere else.

 “We definitely need a nurse,” senior Yosan Tewelde said. “The people I work with always say to go to your school nurse for more information, but what if there is no school nurse to go to?”

Tewelde, who works with Planned Parenthood, stresses how important a school nurse can be to students who need access to additional information and resources.

According to Mrs. Pieratt, Jesuit has considered hiring a school nurse in the past, however, the school still does not employ a nurse. 

The recommended student-to-nurse ratio is one nurse for every 750 students. In Oregon, the ratio is currently one nurse to every 2,600 students.  The shortage of school nurses in Oregon has been an issue for the last decade, and legislators have tried to pass bills requiring one school nurse for every 1,500 students. These bills have repeatedly failed to pass. 

One explanation of this shortage is the budget for schools. Many schools are not able to hire another employee as a school nurse. 

In some districts there are “district nurses,” who divide the days in the week between multiple public schools within a district. These nurses will spend certain days at one school and others at a different school.

School nurses are generally RNs, but there can also be instances where a person acts as the school’s nurse, but is not an official registered nurse. 

Currently, there is a push to hire nurses with specific qualifications regarding mental health, however some argue that student counselors are meant to serve this purpose. 

Jesuit does not currently employ a school nurse, however may consider this option in the future.