DENVER — Being a school nurse is a lot more than bumps, bruises, bloody noses and band-aids. And now, with a shortage of nurses, school nurses are getting even more added to their workload.
“I travel around from school to school,” said Brooke Goudy, a school nurse at Bromwell Elementary School in Denver. “I work one school, two days out of the week; another one, one day out of the week; and two days a week, I’m going around and evaluating school nurses. So I’m visiting maybe up to 10 schools a month.”
For most of Goudy’s career, this has been her schedule. She’s not an outlier. A lot of school nurses have a hectic schedule. It’s a growing problem for them and the schools they serve.
In 2018, more than 60 percent of schools across the country didn’t have a nurse on campus full time, according to the National Association of School Nurses.
“Every day is extremely busy,” Goudy said.
School nursing shortages have been a key point at teacher strikes in Chicago and Los Angeles this year. The Chicago walkout was settled when the district agreed to put a nurse on campus at all of the city’s schools, five days a week. That’s become rare in most states.
“In the past I’ve been traveling to a different school nearly every day of the week,” Goudy said.
The lack of nurses puts a strain on the students who need them.
“There was times when my seizures were out of hand,” said Delvechio Jones, a recent high school graduate. “I had Nurse Lucy and the rest of the faculty and staff here to help me with them.”
Jones said having a nurse helped him be in class, even when he didn’t want to be.
“She was there for me when I needed her the most, and she helped me get through a lot of tough things,” he said.
Lucy Roberts is a school nurse at the high school Jones graduated from. However, she’s not a full-time staff member there.
“I work in this school three days a week,” she said. The rest of the time she’s at other schools in the district. The other two days, Manual High School goes without a nurse.
When a nurse isn’t around, schools have turned to other solutions.
Kelly Grenham has been with Children’s Hospital Colorado for decades. For almost two decades, she has been a school nurse consultant.
While she trains school nurses, she also trains everyone else.
“They’re the secretaries, the office clerks, the people that are in the office, the bus drivers,” Grenham said. “I’m training the people there to make sure every other day of the week that they are safe.”
Full-time employees at schools have taken on some nurse responsibilities. Goudy has monthly meetings with full-time school staff members to go over plans to keep kids healthy.
“Schools as a whole are trying to figure out how to get more school nurses,” Grenham said.
“They need the money to be able to do that, and sometimes with their budget, they can’t,” Goudy said.
About 76.7% of school nurses are funded by local education dollars, according to the National Association of School Nurses.
“Community members understand the kind of impact that can be had with a school nurse in the building,” Roberts said. “Parents and community members can take action by telling principals, ‘Why don’t you have a nurse here?’ ”
“The research does show if you have management of chronic health conditions, the visits to the emergency room go way down,” Grenham said.
“Health comes first. If we don’t have a healthy student, they can’t learn,” Goudy said.