September 25, 2009

School Nurses On Decline As Swine Flu Gains Strength

Many US schools are facing the problem of nurse shortages at a time when cases of the swine flu are on the rise.

Experts told the Associated Press that this shortage of school nurses could cause more students to be stricken with the dangerous H1N1 virus.

"It's really irresponsible of the school district to not really provide medical oversight while kids are in school," Jamie Hintzke, who has two kids in Northern California's Pleasanton Unified School District, told the AP.

"I'm playing Russian roulette every single day he goes to school."

According to the AP, the Unified district has one nurse for 15 schools and 15,000 students.

According to a 2008 survey from the National Association of School Nurses, only 45 percent of public schools employ full-time nurses, while an additional 30 percent have a part-time nurse, leaving about 25 percent with no nurse at all.

The AP reported that the average nurse-to-student ratio was just one nurse for every 1,151 students, but in 14 states, the ration was one nurse for more than 2,000 students.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a ratio of one nurse to every 750 students. The AP cited the nurses association which found that only 12 states satisfied the CDC's recommendation.

Many school districts are dropping school nurses and relying on their teaching staff to satisfy students' health needs.

"We really don't know what symptoms to look for, how to caution our kids or how to protect ourselves," Robert Ellis, a first grade teacher at Washington Elementary School in Richmond, Calif., told the AP.

"I'm really concerned about it spreading in the classroom, how many kids will be impacted and the loss of educational time."


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