Report: school nurses have heavy workload in Utah

Sep 26, 2018, 12:37 PM
Sandy Joder, a school nurse, works at Trailside Elementary School in Park City on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. Photo: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A new report shows just how hard school nurses are working throughout the state, demonstrating a heavy workload with hundreds of students per nurse.

BettySue Hinkson, the Utah Department of Health’s state school nurse consultant, says the report found each registered nurse in the Utah schools serves an average of 4,100 students. For some nurses, that means they are stretched between multiple schools – as few as four or as many as eight to ten.

“The nurses are amazing that we have in Utah, they do a great job. But they are spread pretty thin. Ideally, we would like to see a nurse in every school,” Hinkson says.

Hinkson says nurses treat many students with chronic conditions like asthma, severe allergies, seizures and diabetes. They are also responsible for assisting in emergency care.

Utah’s schools have approximately 17,000 students with asthma. 8,600 students have severe allergies. There are 2,400 students who have type 1 diabetes. Another 3,000 have seizure disorders. All of those students have plans specific to their needs, even if a nurse is not there full time.

“The nurse may only see students at that school one day a week or one morning a week, and the other days other staff would be trained to take care of first aid issues,” Hinkson says.

Hinkson says when districts do get more funding, sometimes they put it toward hiring another teacher instead of a new nurse.

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Report: school nurses have heavy workload in Utah