Health and well-being is one of the most critical aspects of the educational system. Children who have regular access to healthcare have the ability to perform better in school and a greater chance at success in life. In many cases, that access to healthcare begins with their school nurse. For the past several years, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has made the recommendation that schools with a typical student body carry a nursing staff to student ratio of 1:750, while those facilities which serve students with more intense medical needs have a ratio of 1:225.
In a recent press release, the AAP has changed their recommendation for medical staffing in schools and encourages school districts to revisit their staffing policies to make changes that will benefit their students. The new AAP policy statement, published in the June 2016 edition of Pediatrics, is advocating for schools to employ at least one full-time registered nurse in every facility. They feel that using a ratio to determine the workload of nursing staff in schools is no longer adequate.
The AAP cites several reasons for the change in their staffing recommendations, but the driving factor behind the policy change is the evolving role of the school nurse in the overall health care of students across the nation. In today’s climate, nurses are tasked with far more than in the past, needing to provide daily care for students with special needs, life-threatening allergies, asthma, seizures, and other medical conditions. Additionally, they are often asked to participate in behavioral assessments, health education, long term case management, and so much more. By having adequate staffing in each school, districts can ensure that the level of care is of a quality that students deserve.
Additionally, they are recommending that pediatricians work hand in hand with school nursing staff to increase the standard of care for their young patients. By collaborating with school medical staff, doctors who have patients with long term health issues or medical problems that require a regular regiment of care can better monitor and treat various conditions. Keeping the lines of communication open with the school health care provider can be just as critical as open communication with the child’s at-home caregivers in assessing needs and determining the success of a treatment plan and can help to combat issues in schools like chronic absenteeism.
For those starting down the path toward a career in healthcare, it may be a wise decision to consider the option of becoming a school nurse. It stands to reason that as school districts begin to act on this recommendation, there will be an increase in job opportunities on a school level for those in the healthcare community. School nursing is a rewarding career choice for those who care about the health and well-being of children and want to have an impact on their future success.