Leader Editorial: Board should work to remedy nursing shortage

It is a truism that healthy children are in a better position to learn in the classroom. Unfortunately, it’s also a sad fact of life that the role of a school nurse — who is on campus to help insure students’ well-being — often goes overlooked or underestimated.

One item heard during a special meeting of the Burbank school board Friday afternoon was a plea for help from the BUSD’s head nurse, Lenora Aguilera, who maintains there are simply not enough certificated nurses to serve the needs of students. A look at the numbers would suggest she has the hard facts on her side: Just six nurses must divide their time caring for 15,200 Burbank students, a ratio of about one nurse for every 2,500 children. Compare that to the federal guideline established 14 years ago that calls for one school nurse per 750 students.

According to a survey taken in 2000 by the University of Iowa, children who are ministered to by adults who are not certified nurses can be placed at risk, especially when it comes to errors in medication doses. “Mistakes are more than three times as likely to occur when an unlicensed person and not a (school) nurse is responsible,” the Journal of School Health reported that year.

We understand that the Burbank school board regularly faces difficult decisions about where to spend dollars that are hard to come by. But we hope that the committee that’s assessing the district’s priorities in conjunction with the state-mandated Local Control and Accountability Plan take very seriously Aguilera’s words. The six nurses working in a district that should have 20, according to those federal guidelines, must certainly be overwhelmed — and that affects educational success.

Although Burbank Unified surely isn’t alone in being understaffed in the area of school nurses, work obviously needs to be done to at least boost their numbers — and this need must be placed near the top of the district’s list of priorities.

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