North Carolina could get new standards for staffing school nurses, if a new proposal goes forward.
A legislative committee Monday approved a draft bill that would require the State Board of Education to recommend how many nurses are needed in public schools, and to make a plan to put that standard in to effect by 2020. The legislation would also require the Department of Health and Human Services to examine the Medicaid rates for services delivered by school nurses.
"At the end of the day, we need more school nurses," said Representative Craig Horn.
He said the proposal is a matter of school safety. "We look to our nurses to be a conduit of information, and a resource in helping us identify those kids that need more attention, not just physically, but emotionally and mentally."
In 2004, the State Board of Education recommended a ratio of one nurse for every 750 students. Fewer than half of school districts currently meet that recommendation. Right now, approximately 60 percent of all medical duties in schools are performed by school employees who are not nurses.
A report delivered to the Joint Legislative Program Evaluation Oversight Committee estimated that it could cost as much as $79 million annually to bring nurse-to-student ratios up to national recommendations.
The draft legislation will go on to the General Assembly for consideration.