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Where is the School Nurse? - A Survey of Minnesota School Nurses

September 22, 2008 By John Fitzgerald, Education Policy Fellow

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Minnesotans know that students who are in good health will achieve greater academic success and that good health will help students become happier, more productive adults. School nurses provide that health care.

Unfortunately, the demands on school nurses have increased both because of increases in diagnoses and increases in the number of under- or uninsured children at the same time as a serious downturn in school funds allocated for nursing services. This has resulted in less student access to health care in schools.

School nurses provide health care for Minnesota students to advance the well-being, academic success, and life-long achievement of students with the understanding that students who are in better health will become happier, more productive adults. The funding for school nurses is complex and a barrier to providing the care.

  • School nurses are an important link between education and health care. Children spend much of their day in school and any illness or injury not only affects their ability to learn, but also affects the classroom environment and their peers' ability to learn.
  • For many uninsured or underinsured low income families, school nurses are the frontline health care provider. A lack of access to a school nurse can lead to more expensive trips to emergency rooms for care of chronic and preventable illnesses.
  • A survey by Minnesota 2020 and the School Nurse Organization of Minnesota found more than 80 percent of school nurses say districts don't receive enough money to meet student health needs. More than half say school districts are forced to cut nursing positions to save money. Some say this situation is affecting the quality of education students receive.

Minnesota has no law requiring a nurse-to-student ratio, but requires districts with more than 1,000 students to have at least one nurse on staff. Of Minnesota's 343 school districts, 183 have fewer than 1,000 students.

The National Association of School Nurses puts Minnesota's school nurse to student ratio at 1,404 to one - 30th in the nation.

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