For more than a century, school nurses have played a critical role in keeping U.S. schoolchildren healthy. Their duties go far beyond tending to recess scrapes and bruises. They deal with students’ chronic health conditions, life-threatening allergy and asthma events and epidemics of various sorts; they connect students to substance-abuse treatment, mental, behavioral and reproductive health services; they screen for vision, hearing and other problems that might impair learning; they ensure immunization compliance and administer first aid; and more. In short, school nurses provide care that many children would not otherwise receive, and greatly reduce the overall cost of care because they are able to intercept and address problems before they become severe and costly.
Nurses also play an important educational role. As Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has observed, “School nurses play a vital role in making sure children are healthy and ready to learn.”
Despite all that, school nursing is getting squeezed by budget shortfalls, and school systems across the nation are forced to scramble to put together a patchwork of funding streams—sometimes successfully, sometimes not.
The latest issue of Charting Nursing’s Future, “Unlocking the Potential of School Nursing: Keeping Children Healthy, In School, and Ready to Learn,” examines the vital contributions of school nurses to the American medical and education systems, describes the funding challenges they face, and highlights proposed policy solutions.