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As I See It

Wisconsin school nurses in short supply, but more needed than ever

Scott Robert Shaw

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When you and I were young, we may have had to visit the school nurse because of a stomach ache, or an injury on the playground. Now, in the midst of a pandemic, the role of school nurse is more vital than ever. As schools prepare to reopen as coronavirus cases continue to rise, school nurses should be the ones on the front lines to determine if a child is showing signs of the virus. But in Wisconsin, school nurses are in short supply even as the need for them increases. Most school districts in the state don’t employ a full-time nurse. According to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, there are more than 850,000 students attending Wisconsin public schools. But there are barely 600 school nurses working in public schools statewide. That is a ratio of more than 1400 students for one nurse. The La Crosse School District employs just five nurses to serve students in all it’s schools.  In some rural Wisconsin districts, the ratio of nurses to students is even lower. And some districts, facing economic pressures, may find it increasingly difficult to fund nursing positions, so the problem may get worse before it gets better. With the health of our students the chief concern as schools try to open their doors amid the worst pandemic in our lifetime, Wisconsin schools should make sure they have the nurses they need to prevent a breakout in their buildings. These days they will need to do a lot more than just provide ice packs and band-aids.

Scott Robert Shaw serves as WIZM Program Director and News Director, and delivers the morning news on WKTY, Z-93 and 95.7 The Rock. Scott has been at Mid-West Family La Crosse since 1989, and authors Wisconsin's only daily radio editorial, "As I See It" heard on WIZM each weekday morning and afternoon.

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