The schools in the US appear to be suffering from an acute shortage of nurses, with some schools having a single nurse only. There are about 56,000 nurses working across the country in schools on a fulltime basis. This amounts to one nurse for every 950 students, while the federal guidelines call for a nurse for every 750 students. The nurse to student ratio is the worst in Utah, when compared to other parts of the country. Because of this many students who suffer from food allergies, attention-deficit disorder, and asthma are compelled to rely upon teachers and other staff members of the schools.
In Tuolumne County, a single nurse has to take care of 7,200 students. The death of Albert Lee due to cardiac arrest in Millbrae's Mills High School has not served to change the situation. This school still has no nurse after five years had elapsed after the tragic incident. There are also instances wherein the nurses themselves make mistakes resulting in deaths of students.
Parents are calling for a change, and a federal lawsuit has been filed by the American Diabetes Association for better health standards to be implemented. William Sears, a pediatrician is of the opinion that there is something wrong with the priorities of the country if schools do not have the required number of nurses. There are no records available with regard to the exact number of registered or licensed nurses working in schools. The staff of schools cannot be relied upon in case of emergencies.
The National Association of School Nurses contends that the actual ratio is only one nurse for every 1,461 students. A survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed that 47% of the country's schools do not come up to federally recommended standards with regard to the nurse-to-student ratio.
One of the reasons for this could be that nurses working for hospitals are better paid than school nurses.
Medication is sometimes dispensed by unlicensed staff members in some schools as a result of a shortage of funds, or an absence of qualified nurses. This can lead to dangerous consequences. Most schools do not have the resources to hire qualified nurses. The federal funding that schools receive is linked to standardized test scores, which makes it all the more difficult for some schools to hire nurses.
There are as many as 7.4 million asthmatic school students in the country, while medication is taken in school everyday by over 3.5 million students. The Department of Health sources have revealed that 6,007 calls were made from Florida schools to 911 for health help in 2003-04 alone. Schools today serve as a social agency in addition to being an educational institution, and this is all the more reason for them to have better health-care professionals.