Over the last five years, the ratio of students to school nurses has nearly doubled in Oregon. According to a new report released Wednesday, the shortage of healthcare professionals leaves thousands of vulnerable students at risk during the school day.
The school nursing shortage has become so serious that in some cases, office staff is tasked with handing out meds and checking insulin. Jane Carlson is secretary in the Mallala River School District.
Carlson: “Last year we had about 420 kids and I had between 15 and 35 meds in my drawer. It’s aspirin, it’s insulin, it’s inhalers, it’s epi pins, it’s migraine medicine. It is medication for children that are ADD.”
As the new school year begins, the statewide average is one certified or licensed registered nurse for every 2,178 students. The nationally recommended ratio is 1 per 750.
Jason Cox is with the Oregon School Employees Association, one of the groups that authored the report. He says the state would have to spend as much as $72 million annually to remedy the school nursing shortage. The report will be sent to state law makers.