States Can Leverage School Nurses for a Safe Return to School
State boards of education and other state stakeholders should partner with school nurses and state school nurse leaders in forming guidance and making decisions about transitions back to school, according to a new NASBE analysis. School nurses are also well equipped to lead, organize, and promote school vaccination events.
Some state policies support school nurse leadership. Massachusetts and Georgia call for school nurses to serve as leaders in school reopening strategies, Oklahoma encourages consultation, and Wisconsin suggests making use of school nurse expertise in reviewing and updating policies around disease outbreaks and emergencies.
The analysis draws on the expertise of school nurses and other health professionals who joined NASBE and national nonprofit Child Trends for a special webinar series earlier this spring. These experts also called for greater state support, stressing that the pandemic exacerbated long-term challenges faced by the profession, including inadequate staffing, turnover, and lack of training and guidance to address student needs.
Currently, only two states—Delaware and Vermont—require a school nurse in each facility, while 40 states and territories have policies to cover school nurse availability, according to NASBE’s State Policy Database on School Health. Additionally, 32 states and territories have policies that cover school nurses’ professional development, 44 address school nurse qualification, and all but 3 have policies on school-based health services.
Opportunities exist to support this profession as schools reopen. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 positions states to make meaningful investments in student wellness and academic recovery, including replacement of outdated equipment, professional learning for school nurses that build capacity over the long term, health data tracking and needs assessment, and better management of student health records.
“As student wellness and effective use of federal funding gain prominence on the agendas of state boards, their members can hear directly from school nurses and state school nurse consultants on what they are observing in their communities, critical gaps in supporting student health during pandemic recovery, and policies that could hinder school nurses in promoting safe learning environments,” writes Valerie Norville, NASBE’s editorial director.
NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances. Learn more at www.nasbe.org.
Child Trends is the nation’s leading research organization focused exclusively on improving the lives of children and youth, especially those who are most vulnerable. Our work helps set the national agenda on child well-being, shapes policies that affect children and their families, and elevates important issues for vulnerable groups of children and youth. Learn more at www.childtrends.org.
This publication and the related event series are supported by cooperative agreement NU87PS004367-01-01, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The contents of this publication are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views or endorsement of the CDC or the Department of Health and Human Services.