School Nurses Save Districts Double Their Salaries

Data shows that school nurses shouldn’t be the first staff members who should go when a school is trying to cut items from the budget.

According to Jeremy Culver writing for WGEM (Liberty, Illinois), school nurses can actually save money for a school. He alludes to a study published in the Journal of American Medicine Association Pediatrics, that states not only schools, but parents, also, would be paying higher bills were it not for school nurses.

The results of the study were based on input from nurses at 933 schools. The nurses saved their schools and parents around $100 million in medical costs and lost wages.

The study revealed that for every dollar spent on paying a nurse, $2.20 is saved. The nurse’s services helps keep teachers in the classroom and parents at their workplaces.

Kelle Bunch, Liberty School Superintendent, is convinced that school nurses do more than just save money. When a nurse is not assigned to a school, someone has to take up the slack.  Often it is a secretary, an assistant, or a teacher, who does not have the expertise to spot side effects or to know what protocol is necessary in the wake of side effects.

In Philadelphia, a first-grader died last week in a school that did not have a nurse.  The 7-year-old, a student at Jackson Elementary, died of a congenital heart defect.  There was no way of knowing if the presence of a school nurse would have produced a different outcome.  At the time, two adults, one a retired nurse, were volunteering at the school and administered CPR until the emergency crews arrived.

Reporter for The Inquirer, Kristen A. Graham, writes that Philadelphia school nurse, Eileen DiFranco, agrees that nurses in schools make a difference.

“Cutting nurses is not a savings,” said DiFranco, who is Roxborough High School’s nurse. In late 2011 and early 2012, she organized a series of protests outside Philadelphia School District headquarters after 47 nurses lost their jobs for budgetary reasons.  “911 gets called for nosebleeds, for stitches, for things that are not a medical emergency,” DiFranco said. “People do not have the expertise to be able to parse out an emergency for something that’s not run-of-the-mill.”

On Tuesday of this week, DiFranco dealt with a sexual assault and a student who had overdosed on medication. Roxborough High School is a large school made up of teens who have special medical needs.

Both Superintendent William R. Hite and Michael Pistiner, a Massachusetts pediatric allergist who has worked with the school health program at Jackson Elementary, hope that this study will change the way school boards look at the value of having a school nurse and not at the expense incurred.

Anne Sheetz, the study’s senior author, says the study does not cover all the savings made possible by full-time school nurses.

“We haven’t looked at the number of emergency room visits saved, we have not looked at the number of hospitalizations saved … we have yet to look at the big savings,” she told Reuters Health. “This is just a drop in the bucket.”

Genevra Pittman, in her report for Reuters Health, says that many think of the duties of a school nurse in a stereotypical way.  The days of taking temperatures and applying Band-Aids are over.  This is only a very small part of the day-to-day duties of today’s school nurse.