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NC lawmakers looking to fund and require more school nurses

Currently some school districts share nurses between schools and others don’t have one at all.

RALEIGH, N.C. — A bill filed in the North Carolina Senate is attempting to get more nurses into K-12 schools. 

Senate Bill 263 would require every school in the state to have at least one nurse. 

"The majority of our schools have no school nurses in their school at all," Sen. Gale Adcock, a Democratic lawmaker in the North Carolina Senate said. "and some have them like half a day a week and that's not enough either."

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Adcock is the primary sponsor of SB 263 also known as the Nurse in Every School Bill. 

"One nurse in a school with 2000 students is not enough, but it is a wonderful start," Adcock said. 

As it stands now the state recommends one nurse for every 750 students, but a report shows some schools only have one nurse for up to 2,300 students. 

Shelly Klutz, the lead school nurse at Watauga County Schools, and president President of the School Nurse Association of North Carolina has spent years taking care of students as a registered nurse. 

She said the focus is on both their physical and mental health. 

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"When students have an anxiety attack, we're the ones that take care of them first, if a student has self-harm, like cutting, we're the ones that assess first," Klutz said. 

Unfortunately, not all schools have their own nurse Klutz. 

"Just having one nurse, a large amount of students still is you know, it's hard, you're not able to serve them all," Klutz said. "That's just, it's not realistic."

Klutz and other nurses spoke to legislators about the dire need to have school nurses. 

"I sent out a couple of kids last couple of weeks with them signs and symptoms of appendicitis," Klutz said. 

She said medical professionals like school nurses, have the training to assess students in emergency situations. 

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"If I have two schools, and I'm doing half a day, at each school, you can't tell the students don't break an arm when I'm not there," Klutz said. 

A state report show in the 2021 to 2022 school year alone was responsible for medication oversight or administration for more than 15,000 long-term medications. 

Nurses also contribute to kids staying in school. 

During the 2021-22 school year, NC school nurses reported helping 2.2 million students. Of those students, 78% of students seen were sent back to class. 

"So much less opportunity for learning loss and absenteeism in a class," Adcock said.

The bill would provide $100 million from the state budget for schools to reach the one-nurse goal. The money would go to the NC Department of Public Instruction to disburse. 

Adcock has filed the bill before, but this time she has bipartisan support. 

"One of the things you learn as a legislator is that filing a bill is not sufficient, you need a certain amount of power behind that idea, behind that bill," Adcock said.

Two Republican lawmakers Senator Ralph Hise and Senator Lisa Barnes are also sponsors of the bill. Hise is the chair of the Senate Appropriations and Base Budget committee while Barnes is the chair of the Appropriations on Education committee.

"I went to folks who have the power," Adcock said. "Now, I'm not saying they're definitely going to do it, but they were very eager to sign on to the bill."

Adcock said if the bill doesn't make it to become a law she'll keep fighting. 

"It's an incremental solution to a large problem, but it's worth doing and I'm willing, to take this idea and go as far as I can with it every single session," Adcock said. 

Contact Shamarria Morrison at smorrison@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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