New study finds NC schools fall short on school nurses

CAMERON, N.C. (WNCN) - A new study is shedding light on the growing need for school nurses. Just as they're being asked to do more, CBS North Carolina learned the number of students they care for is well over what the state recommends.

"Each day 119 medical procedures are performed in the district. Now these are tube feedings, trach cleanings. We're doing shunt care," Phyllis Magnuson, the School Health Manager with Moore County Schools said.

Magnuson has been with Moore County School for 20 years; she's been a nurse 36 years.

"30 percent of our kids are coming in with mental health issues," Magnuson said.

The state recommends there be one nurse for 750 students. Moore County Schools said their ratio is one nurse to 900 students. To put that in perspective, Johnston County Public Schools told us they have one nurse to 1,911 students. The Wake County Public School System said they have a total of 84 nurses. According to the district's website, they have 160,429 students, which equates to one nurse to 1,909 students.

"If you're there one day a week, you can't build trust with the faculty or staff. But if the nurse that's here and the nurses that are in our schools, we have 8 of them now full-time. They're able to get to the grassroots of things and filter out and get the children the resources they need," Magnuson said.

A new study by the General Assembly's Program Evaluation Division found that less than half of all school districts statewide meet that recommended ratio. They estimate it would cost $79 million to change that.

Magnuson's message to legislators was this. "Same thing I've said for years, you know being the old nurse that I am. Come a day with me. Come with me one day and see what school nurses actually do."

Moore County Schools is still trying to reach that suggested state ratio. In order to do that, they said they'd need to hire 3 additional nurses bringing their total up to 17.