HB 791, HB 1046, SB 366: Improve Access to School Nurses

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HB 791 (Pogge), HB 1046 (Torian), SB 366 (Stuart)
Improve Access to School Nurses

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School nurses are a critical, yet understaffed resource in Virginia’s schools. They are first responders, provide a wide range of acute care services to students and staff, promote healthy school communities, provide care coordination for children with chronic illness, and much more.

Currently in Virginia, there are no minimum staffing levels for school nurses; rather, local school boards have the discretion to fill these positions as they deem necessary. There is wide variability in how localities staff their school nurses. In addition, geographic location and population density impact school nurse staffing across the Commonwealth.

In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics called for a minimum of one full-time school nurse in each school to ensure the health and safety of school-age children. However, there are currently no minimum staffing levels for school nurses in Virginia. Instead, local school boards have the ability to fill these positions at their discretion. The current ratio of registered nurses to students in Virginia is 1:92311

Why is this legislation important?
This proposed legislation would require each local school board to employ one full-time nurse in each elementary, middle, and high school in the division, or one nurse per 550 students in kindergarten through grade 12. The proposed increase in school nurse positions is consistent with 2016 SOQ recommendations by the Virginia Board of Education and recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Budget amendments will be introduced by bill patrons to increase state funding for additional school nurses to achieve the ratio of one fulltime equivalent school nurse position per 550 students. Please encourage House Appropriations and Senate Finance members to support these items.

Full-Time School Nurses Benefit:
Students
. Disadvantaged students who had asthma missed 23% fewer school days when they had a full-time school nurse2.
Parents. Having a full-time school nurse to entrust with their child’s care means parents may not have to leave work to pick their child up early or administer medication.
Teachers. With a full-time school nurse, teachers don’t have to stop teaching to tend to a student’s healthcare needs3.
Communities. Employment of full-time school nurses shows a net financial benefit to communities, including lowering the cost of certain medical procedures by administering them in a school setting and curbing Medicaid costs for disadvantaged students.

1 Campbell, T. (2016). Summer institute for school nursing July 10, 2016: 2016 school health update [Powerpoint slides].
2 Telljohann, S. K., Dake, J. A., & Price, J. H.,(2004). Effect of fulltime versus part-time school nurses on attendance of elementary students with asthma. Journal of School Nursing, 20, 331–334. doi:10.1177/10598405040200060701
3 Wang, L., Vernon-Smiley, M., Gapinski, M., Desisto, M., Maughan, E., & Sheetz, A. (2014, May 19). Cost-Benefit Study of School Nursing Services. JAMA Pediatrics, Supplement, E1-E7. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.5441
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