News & Events

New bill addresses critical shortage of school nurses

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
November/December 2008 Edition

Legislation has been introduced in Washington, D.C. to help reduce the student-to-school nurse ratio in public secondary schools and elementary schools. Reps. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., and Lois Capps, D-Calif., introduced the student-to-school nurse ratio improvement bill, H.R. 6201, in June.

If enacted, the first-of-its-kind bill would direct funding to district schools with substandard nurse-to-student ratios to help improve them, providing grants through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to eligible states to help reduce the studentto- school nurse ratios. A report to Congress on the effectiveness of the grant program will also be required.

The National Association of School Nurses (NASN), in a letter to members of the House of Representatives, calls on Congress to support the legislation stating, “Students today have increasingly complex needs for nursing care and school nurses help facilitate learning for all students.”

School nurses provide health care and education to students and implement strategies that promote a healthy, safe and nurturing school environment. The school nurse role has advanced over the past few years as a result of an increase in the number of students entering public schools with severe physical or chronic conditions. This increase in responsibilities has become a challenge for school nurses, especially in schools where the ratio of school nurse to students is disproportionately large.

The NASN recommends one school nurse to no more than 750 students. But currently, more than 50 percent of public schools in the U.S. do not have a full-time registered nurse and wide gaps exist from state to state, within school districts, and between urban and rural schools, McCarthy says.

Intervention through federal legislation and funding will be essential to effectively manage and resolve this national issue.

To learn more about the student-to-school nurse ratio improvement bill or to locate your congressman to support and co-sponsor this legislation, visit

Taken from Nursing Notes, September 2008