CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – A national shortage of school nurses is nothing new, but it is now posing new challenges amid COVID-19.
School nurses oversee the safety and wellness of kids in the classroom and now are tasked with more responsibilities without the manpower to carry them out. According to the West Virginia Association of Nurses, there isn’t enough money to properly staff public schools with enough nurses to get the job done.
“Right now the ratio for school nurses in west virginia is one certified school nurse, which is a registered nurse, for every 1,500 students kindergarten through 7th grade,” said Samantha Knapp, president of the WV Association of School Nurses.
So teachers aren’t the only ones feeling overwhelmed. By West Virginia law, every county must have at least one school nurse. That’s a minimum of one nurse for all the schools in that district.
School districts will tell you there’s just not enough money to go around. The WV Association for School Nurses agrees and says under the CARES Act, there will finally be additional money to help hire the bodies to tackle the challenges for the upcoming school year.
“Making sure that contact tracing is going to be an overwhelming job, so I feel like making sure they have everything they need to do that or maybe give that to somebody else. I feel like that’s going to be a big job for the school nurse on top of everything they got going on,” said Joyce Wilson, President of the WV Nurses Association.
The West Virginia Nurses Association has teamed up with the state’s Association for School Nurses to advocate for them.
“So we support whatever it is the school nurse need, and we support whatever legislation that they had in mind to get a bill written and lobby to get that bill passed,” Wilson said.
School nurses are responsible for the wellness of their students and staff and have been working all summer to stay on top of ever-changing re-entry plans.
“We’ve worked under crunches before and it’s not that we like to, but that’s what nurses do, you provide the care that everybody needs,” Knapp said.
But Knapp says the crunch this year is the biggest anyone has faced before.