Chances are you have more than a few memories of being sent to the school nurse as a kid. Maybe you were faking a stomach ache because you wanted to go home. Maybe you'd gotten hit in the face with a basketball at recess. Maybe you'd thrown up in your classroom and were on the verge of dying from embarrassment. Whatever led you to her office—well, it was almost always a her, anyway, and she usually had on those practical white sneakers—she was a source of comfort, even if she wouldn't let you go home. Well, now because of our piss poor economy and gutted school budgets, it's looking more and more like this generation of kids might not get to know the pleasure of being sent to the nurse's office, and, more importantly, they might not get the valuable health care that the nurses provide.
These sad cuts are being made across the country as school districts struggle to make ends meet with ever shrinking budgets. In Los Angeles, for instance, the number of school nurses has gone down 13 percent in the last four years, and it's only going to get worse. The school district in Cleveland, Ohio, laid off 55 percent of its school nurses last year, and now just 28 nurses care for 45,000 students. Those aren't good odds.
Of course, nurses have always cared for injuries and administered medicines to students, but they're more necessary than ever since so many kids are now suffering from really serious diseases like diabetes, asthma, and life-threatening allergies. What's more, for many kids whose families don't have insurance, the nurse is often the only health care provider they have access to.
As nurses are cut, teachers and administrators are left handling the sick children, which is clearly not ideal, and it can often mean that an ambulance gets called whereas a trained nurse might have been able to handle the situation on their own. While a shortage of nurses can have serious consequences, school officials often opt to eliminate them because it's the lesser of two evils. John Deasy, school superintendent in Los Angeles, says he's not happy that because of budget cuts health services in his district have "been terribly impacted," but he says, "What do I do? Make kindergarten classes 45 to one?" Another option would be for our government to start spending enough money on schools so that they can afford to have both nurses and teachers in the same building, but we wouldn't want to do that because it might endanger our ability to access endless supplies of gasoline—or worse it might saddle our mythical future grandchildren (who, by the way, probably won't even know what a school nurse is) with a teensy little bit more national debt.
School Districts Cut More Nurses [Wall Street Journal]
Image via Brian Eichhorn/Shutterstock.