School nurse shortage called ‘national crisis’

School nurse shortage called 'national crisis'

NEW YORK, NY (CBS) - Some are calling it a growing national crisis: the shortage of school nurses.

Only three out of five schools across the country have full-time school nurses. This often forces school administrator, with no medical training, to step in and provide some level of care.

In October 2018, Rasheen Pressley’s 9-year-old son Hasoun collapsed in his school cafeteria. He was rushed to the hospital where he was later pronounced dead of heart failure.

“He was my only son,” Pressley said. “There weren’t nobody there to help him. Nothing.”

There was no school nurse on duty that day. According to a Philadelphia School District official, staff certified in CPR tried to revive Hasoun, who’d been born with a heart defect.

It’s unknown had a school nurse been there that day, if they would have been able to save Rasheen’s son.

There are no federal laws regulating school nurse staffing, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends at least one registered nurse in school every day. A standard many districts are failing to meet.

Donna Mazyck, the executive director of the National Association of School Nurses, said this is a crisis.

She said 40 percent of schools across the country do not have a full-time nurse. Twenty-five percent don’t have a nurse at all.

“It’s not acceptable,” Mazyck said. “Students deserve what they need to be in school and ready to learn.”

Denie Gorbey-Creese is a school nurse in Howard County, Maryland who covers two schools a day.

She has health assistants at each school who call her with questions when she is not in the building.

“If I’m busy with an emergency at my other school, I’m not available right away, so it might delay their care some," Gorbey-Creese said.

In Cincinnati, Ohio, where nurses were also sometimes covering more than one school, they’re tackling the problem through a partnership with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

“We are now able to provide routine health care services for all of the students in the building as well as any child in the community,” Lisa Crosby, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital clinical manager, said.

They’ve opened health centers in schools to close the gap, so students get services here no different than they do in a pediatrician’s office.

In the wake of his son’s death, Rasheen Pressley said schools must find a way to provide care for all students.

“Because if we ain’t got no nurses at school, you might as well, might as well just teach the kids at home,” Pressley said. “That’s just common sense.”

Copyright 2019 CBS. All rights reserved.