N.D. school nurses understaffedThey’re on the front lines in the battle against the H1N1 flu and seasonal flu, and yet school nurses are understaffed at schools across North Dakota.
By: By Kelly Smith, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — They’re on the front lines in the battle against the H1N1 flu and seasonal flu, and yet school nurses are understaffed at schools across North Dakota.
With health experts predicting the seasonal flu will peak this month followed by an imminent third wave of H1N1, school nurses will continue to be especially swamped this year.
“We do have a challenge to improve our ratio here in North Dakota,” said Becky Bailey, the director of school health at the state Department of Health.
North Dakota ranks 45th in the nation for its student-to-nurse ratio, according to 2008 data from the National Association of School Nurses.
With one nurse for every 2,828 students, North Dakota falls far outside the recommended ratio of one nurse for every 750 healthy children.
Minnesota fares slightly better, ranked No. 35 with 1,803 students-per-nurse. It still exceeds, though, the national average of 1,151 nurses for every student.
Being understaffed translates to long lines of students outside school nurse offices during peak sick seasons. Nurses log longer hours and other school staff members are even asked to step up to help.
“There are a lot of schools that don’t have a school nurse at all, and that can be difficult especially in times with the H1N1 outbreaks and other disease outbreaks,” Bailey said. “A lot of the time, it’s the school nurse that identifies the issue.”
Bailey said it mainly comes down to funding. If local health agencies received more local, state or federal funding, she said, they could hire more school nurses.
Fargo Cass Public Health hires school nurses for Fargo Public Schools, which has about 1,400 students for every nurse.
Kelly Smith is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.