Oregon Has A Major School Nurse Shortage

The ratio of school nurses to students has grown significantly since 2010, according to a sobering new report released today by OSEA, the Oregon School Nurses Association (OSNA), Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) and Upstream Public Health.

Unhealthy Schools: The Alarming Decline of School Nurses in Oregon (PDF)

Despite Oregon’s improving economy, school nurse positions have yet to be restored, placing thousands of Oregon’s most vulnerable children at risk. Today, Oregon has one certified and/or licensed registered nurse for every 2,178 students, startlingly short of the recommended 1:750 ratio.

“We’ve created a system where students don’t get the care they need,” says Cindy Hoffert, a school nurse in Salem. “Ultimately, we could be keeping kids so much safer and healthier if there were more school nurses. There would be better attendance, graduation rates and higher grades.”

The severe shortage at some schools has stretched support staff thin as they take care of their students’ medical needs — such as assisting with changing and feeding, putting in catheters and administering oxygen — all while juggling their primary duties.

“If we had more school nurses and support staff, our students would be better taken care of, staff would not be getting hurt and there would be so many more opportunities to teach students,” said Gloria Lundin, a special education assistant and member of Dallas Chapter 34.

We are doing a disservice to our children’s health and education. But none of the problems and stories outlined in this report are unsolvable. With major investments in our kids’ health and safety at school, we can address these issues and create better outcomes for Oregon’s students.