Report: Oregon faces severe school nurse shortage

Groups calling for dramatically increased funding

Getting information at an Emergency Room (Graphiq, file)
Getting information at an Emergency Room (Graphiq, file)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A new report sponsored by school employees and nurses states Oregon is facing a school nurse shortage unless the legislature increases funding.

The report, Unhealthy Schools: The Alarming Decline of School Nurses in Oregon, was released by Oregon School Employees Association, Oregon School Nurses Association, Oregon Nurses Association and Upstream Public Health.

Oregon School Employees Association is an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of Classified School Employees

In 2014-15, Oregon had one registered nurse or certified school nurse for every 2178 students. The national recommendation is 1:750, something Oregon law encourages districts to provide by 2020.

Nina Fekaris, a school nurse in the Beaverton School District and the president-elect for the National Association of School Nurses, worries about Oregon students.

“We have pretty poor student-to-school-nurse ratios,” Fekaris said. “We are one of the lowest in the nation.”

Nina Fekaris, a school nurse in the Beaverton School District and the president-elect for the National Association of School Nurses, September 7, 2016 (KOIN)
Nina Fekaris, a school nurse in the Beaverton School District and the president-elect for the National Association of School Nurses, September 7, 2016 (KOIN)

Kids are in school the majority of their day, she said, “so if they have issues, concerns, mental health, behavior concerns, chronic illness, somebody needs to be able to manage that and coordinate their care. That’s really the role of the school nurse, is to do that case management and care coordination.”

In order to get to the recommended ratio, the report says, the Oregon legislature would need to invest $58 million per year.

If Oregon wanted to meet the Massachusetts model of one nurse in every school building, that investment would climb to $78 million, the report states.

Fekaris said there is a lot of delegating of nursing tasks in Oregon, including training secretaries and instructional assistants “to actually help care for some of the kids that need procedures. When we have so many of those kids that we’re having to train others, then we can’t safely monitor those staff.”

“Oregon as a state just needs to recognize that this is important,” Fekaris told KOIN 6 News. “The services that school nurses provide for our children in Oregon public schools is an important service.”

Read the entire report here:

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