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Hey, Hey! Ho, Ho! Is Striking For School Nurses The Way To Go?

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As academics throughout the nation stroll out of their lecture rooms, hit the picket strains and demand greater pay, they’re holding college nurses in thoughts — asking for extra of them or, on the very least, higher pay for them.

Oakland, Calif., academics plan to strike Thursday if they will’t hammer out a take care of the district that features a “living wage” and extra nurses and counselors. Last week in Denver, 1000’s of educators and college nurses went on strike and marched to the state Capitol asking for a significant raise — and obtained it.

These unions observe within the footsteps of Los Angeles teachers, who, after hanging for six days final month, received a 6 p.c wage improve and 300 extra college nurses over the following three years, sufficient to employees each college with a full-time nurse.

“It shows that teachers recognize the importance of having a nurse on-site at all times, but it’s sad that it takes a strike to get more nurses,” mentioned Nina Fekaris, president of the National Association of School Nurses and a faculty nurse in Oregon.

Student well being is essential to educational success, however relating to placing nurses in colleges, the training system has usually “turned a blind eye,” Fekaris mentioned. Now, academics are making nurses a vital piece of their contract negotiations in a daring transfer that appears to be working, she mentioned.

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For districts, it comes all the way down to restricted funding, mentioned Erika Hoffman, a lobbyist with the California School Boards Association. “You’ve got massive competing interests: Do I hire a new teacher, a counselor or a school nurse?”

School districts don’t make these choices evenly, Hoffman added. “We know healthy kids learn better,” she mentioned. “It’s great that the unions are looking at the needs of the whole child, but [nurses] don’t come for free.”

School nurses make a nationwide common wage of $63,944 to $66,973, in accordance with the latest figures from the National Association of School Nurses. About 55 p.c of them earn lower than $51,000 a yr.

In many college districts throughout the nation, there merely aren’t sufficient nurses to are likely to college students’ medical wants. Nurses usually cut up their time amongst a number of campuses, leaving many colleges and not using a nurse at vital instances and in need of the really helpful staffing ratio. In some situations, academics or help employees administer remedy when a nurse isn’t round. And in no less than one excessive case, when a gun unintentionally discharged inside a Los Angeles Unified School District center college classroom last year, academics scrambled to determine methods to are likely to the accidents earlier than first responders arrived.

Nonetheless, when districts face funds cuts, nurses are among the many first employees to go, Fekaris mentioned. That’s as a result of college nurses aren’t required by legislation in most states, although their providers, comparable to imaginative and prescient, listening to and scoliosis screenings, are.

The American Academy of Pediatrics used to suggest a ratio of 1 nurse for each 750 college students, however the group updated its recommendation in 2016 to no less than one nurse in each college.

During the 2017-18 college yr, California colleges employed 2,623 full-time registered nurses, in accordance with the state Department of Education. With about 6.22 million students enrolled, that averages out to about 1 nurse for each 2,370 college students.

In West Virginia, academics went on strike last year and received a 5 p.c increase for all employees, together with nurses. Now, proposed state legislation would enhance the varsity nurse ratio, which presently stands at 1 nurse to 1,500 college students, in accordance with the West Virginia Association of School Nurses.

In Los Angeles, the district continues to be figuring out the way it pays for the extra 300 nurses it agreed to rent. The union says there’s sufficient cash within the district’s reserve to cowl no less than the primary yr of pay for the extra nurses and different help employees.

“Our parents really wanted more nurses, and it became one of our top demands,” mentioned Arlene Inouye, secretary of United Teachers Los Angeles.

After the strike, Inouye visited Oakland to advise that metropolis’s academics union, which introduced Sunday that it’ll strike this week, barring “dramatic changes” from the district.

“L.A. has been an inspiration,” mentioned Chaz Garcia, a vice chairman of the Oakland Education Association. “There has been a lot of focus on salaries, but that’s not the driving force and that’s not all we’re looking for,” she mentioned.

The union is asking for 1 college nurse for each 750 college students “because we do not have enough to deal with students’ growing health issues,” she mentioned. School nurses and academics within the district are seeing extra college students with continual situations comparable to bronchial asthma, diabetes and meals allergy symptoms — which require fixed monitoring and the administration of medicines comparable to insulin.

It’s not that the district doesn’t wish to rent nurses, mentioned Andrea Bustamante, government director of scholar providers at Oakland Unified School District. It’s that it might probably’t.

The district, which has about 37,000 college students, budgets for 32 nurses, however seven of these positions are vacant, she mentioned.

“Like many other California districts, we have struggled to find qualified candidates to fill our vacancies,” Bustamante mentioned in a written assertion. She cited obstacles together with the extra state certification required to change into a faculty nurse and competitors from hospitals.

What college districts actually need to do in the event that they wish to entice extra nurses is supply them a “living wage,” mentioned Sean McFarland, a faculty nurse at Denver Public Schools who participated within the strike there.

Before working in colleges, McFarland was a cost nurse in an emergency room, the place he made about $16,000 extra a yr than his beginning wage on the college district, he mentioned. He took the pay minimize as a result of he needed to attempt nursing in one other setting and provides again to his group another way, he mentioned.

When he began, he befriended 4 different new nurses. “Out of the five of us, I am the only one who still works” on the district, McFarland mentioned. “They left for more pay.”

Use Our Content This story might be republished without spending a dime (details).

This KHN story first printed on California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation.

Ana B. Ibarra: aibarra@kff.org”>aibarra@kff.org, @ab_ibarra

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