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Where Are All the Nurses? A Local Look at the Nationwide Shortage From Bryan ISD

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A Bryan ISD school nurse is looking to set the record straight: her job goes above and beyond applying ice packs and ointment. Fanette Parks, a school nurse at Bryan Collegiate High School, says the stereotype comes at the detriment of nurses. It’s part of a growing issue she sees in her field.

She’s not in it for the money. School nursing allowed her to pursue her passion while working on her children’s school schedules. She has spent over a decade as a school nurse in Bryan ISD and loves her job – though the stereotypes and adverse misconceptions that school nurses aren’t equal to ‘real nurses’ is halting the field’s growth.

Currently, public schools in Texas aren’t legally required to have a nurse on staff, according to Laurie Smith. She is the president of the Texas School Nurses Organization, an advocacy group that is hunting for solutions to the nursing shortage. Smith noted one way to address the shortage is to require an on-campus nurse in every public school, but notes the limited incentive to fill those empty spots.

“The average salary for an RN is around $76,800. For a school nurse that’s an RN, the average salary is about $56,000,” Smith said.

Many medical professionals, especially school nurses, left their nursing field during the pandemic. The school nurse shortage is a fraction of a broader shortage of nurses.

There are around 16,000 kids attending school in Bryan ISD, and just 32 nurses caring for them across 24 campuses. Parks compared her nurse’s office to a “mini ER,” saying that her day is far more involved and stressful than others think. She adds that there are many children she sees everyday with chronic health conditions, such as asthma and diabetes.

Although Bryan ISD is fully staffed, Parks said there’s still a gap, not in personnel so much as how they’re perceived. She goes on to say that the idea that school nurses don’t perform “real” nursing is a myth, and there is a lot that goes on that people just don’t realize.

A study from the National Association of School Nurses found less than 40 percent of the nation’s public schools have a full-time nurse.

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