Nationwide School Nurse Shortage, But Not in Leon County

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The school nurse is a title that conjures up images of the person you went to when your stomach hurt or you had a headache during school hours, but over the years the responsibility of the school nurse has changed, especially when it comes to increased responsibility.

"We're getting kids in our schools that are sicker than they were five years ago. The medical management, the science, the practice has changed, so it does require more education and knowledge, so it's always a concern for us," says Lorri Pilkington, the coordinator for Leon County Schools Health Services.

That concern is whether school districts will have enough trained professionals to serve as school nurses as the country experiences a nursing shortage, but for right now things are ok for Leon County.

Dr. Ruth Hobbs, the Executive Director of Intervention and Health Services, says "We're not in such terrible condition here in Leon County. As you know, we're a university town, and we have those resources to draw from as well as a large parents and retiree contingency."

Federal guidelines call for one nurse for every 750 students. Data from the 2004 census shows there's one school nurse for every 950 students, nation wide.

Leon County says it's within that recommended range.

"We at least have a designated trained unlicensed assisted person in school each day, and the person is supervised by a registered nurse," adds Pilkington.

School nurses are allowed to give medication with doctors’ orders and help with the basics like taking a temperature or helping to determine whether a student should be excused from school.

The Leon County school district says it will continue it will do all it can to keep students healthy, because healthy students are better able to learn.