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New Report Shows Utah Doesn't Have Enough School Nurses

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A new report from the Utah Department of Health shows that the state has far fewer school nurses than is recommended. The National Association of School Nurses recommends one school nurse for every 750 healthy students. Utah has one school nurse for every 4,300 students.

BettySue Hinkson is a school nurse consultant for the state health department.

“It’s an ongoing problem,” she says. “I don’t know why it’s worse in Utah than it is in any other state. We have about the same number of chronic conditions than we do in other states, but for some reason the funding just isn’t allocated for school nursing.”

The report found that to close the gap and meet national recommendations, it would cost the state $68 million.

Hinkson has worked as a school nurse and with school nurses for 16 years. She says Utah’s school nurses are overworked and overwhelmed. Some nurses have to care for students at a dozen or more different schools.

“They do the best they can, and they’re doing a great job,” Hinkson says. “But they just can’t do everything. They could be doing so much more with teaching health to the students and working with parents a little bit more. Sometimes a school nurse is the only health care provider that a student sees.”

To make up for the shortfall, Hinkson says many nurses train teachers and school staff to administer epinephrine, insulin and other common drugs in case of an emergency.

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