Nurse Shortage in Public Schools
Columbia Public School students visited the nurse's office 130,000 times last year. So often that most nurses in Columbia elementary schools have to work at more than one school.
"I think there usually are many budget constraints as you look at teacher salaries and the number of students," said Susan Robinson of Columbia Schools Health Services. "I know in our district the enrollment's up again this year."
About one-third of Columbia Public School nurses take care of more than the 750 students federal guidelines recommend. The national average is one school nurse for every 950 students. Low salaries may also account for the problem.
A 2004 survey shows $36,000 was the median salary for a school nurse, while a nurse working in a hospital or clinic had an annual salary of about $55,000.
The nurse at Derby Ridge Elementary is responsible for about 1300 kids at two schools, and that concerns at least one parent.
"Of course I'd be more comfortable if there were more nurses available in case there was something like an epidemic, some type of flu situation going around the school," parent Larry Fredette said. "It would be nice to have more than one nurse there."
But that probably won't happen any time soon. Missouri is one of 14 states that does not require its schools to have registered or professional nurses.