CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is working to hire more school nurses to get closer to the recommend average of nurses per students.
The national recommendation is one nurse for every 750 students. At CMS, it’s currently one for every 900 students.
CMS announced this week they will be working more closely with Mecklenburg County when it comes to student health.
“What we know from research is that children are more likely to get mental health treatment at school,” says Dr. Cotrane Penn, Executive Director of Student Services at CMS.
Dr. Penn also says chronic illnesses and suicide counseling sessions among children have spiked and because of that she says the role of a school nurse is more important than ever.
“As long as we have a continued push in value and understanding of the impact of wellness and that’s social, emotional, physical wellness; If we have a shared understanding of that and the fact that school is where students are most likely to get their wellness needs met, I think we’re going to be OK,” she says.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School district released numbers from the 2018-2019 school year, which showed there were 358, 341 visits to school health rooms. Of those visits, they say 74,191 were for health conditions, while 8,075 were for caregiver support and 104,222 were for counseling sessions where students received social and emotional support.
The district however is having a hard time filling nursing positions, citing competition with area hospitals. CMS says there’s a nurse position at every school in the district, but at any given time, they have 12 to 20 openings.
It’s an issue Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Board of Education at-large member Lenora Sandres Shipp says she’s witnessed first-hand.
“It took a lot of work with our staff because many times that full-time nurse was not there and we had to hire 3 nurses within one school year,” says Shipp.
When a school does have an open nurse position, CMS says they use temp nurses to try and full in the gaps.