A new law that would raise school nurse standards across California was introduced to the Assembly this week.
Under Assembly Bill 2175, authored by Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D-Carson), a local education agency would teach an approved program to school nurses in California who only have a bachelor’s degree. Under current law, nurses only need a four-year degree if they want a preliminary school nursing credential that is good for five years. A professional credential currently requires an additional year of schooling, as well as other requirements such as having a two-year minimum of previously being a school nurse. AB 2175 would essentially make the degree and an additional year mandatory regardless of preliminary or professional credentials.
While Assemblyman Gipson’s office did not get back to the California Globe regarding his decision in writing AB 2175, the debate between needing an additional year of course work to prepare nurses for schools and adding an additional hurdle in a time of a gigantic shortage of school nurses has shown that the bill itself may not be as easily passed as it was once thought it would.
A need for an additional year
“It’s important that school nurses get that extra year of training,” explained Stephanie Locke, a former school nurse. “It’s not just about helping treat students who are sick. It’s about tracking their development, tracking different students allergies, helping teach classes about certain things, getting in touch with parents or guardians about certain issues, and so much more.”
“To give you an example on why this is needed, I once had a fresh out of college nurse with me at one of my schools,” continued Locke. “One of our students had a latex allergy, and we had to use special gloves for when he came in. You know, it was in his file and the gloves were in the cabinet ready to be used. You know, it’s part of the list of things we need to do we’re taught in those classes.”
“Well, she never took them, and when he came in with a large cut, she was snapping on the normal gloves and was about to touch him with the gloves on when I went through the mental checklist and saw he was our latex allergy student. I physically grabbed the nurses wrist and showed her the file.”
“It sounds simple to those who aren’t nurses, but there’s a lot of procedures we have to go through. Even though he was the only student there with an allergy, we have so much to do, especially in an urgent matter like a cut, that if you aren’t trained to go through a mental checklist specially for a school, you can miss something. That’s what happened there, and that’s why we need that extra year. To help drill those procedures in.”
A need for more school nurses
California is currently experiencing a school nursing shortage, a problem that is only growing worse due to many school districts, such as Los Angeles and Oakland, expanded the number of school nurses needed for the system. The school nurse per student ration in the state currently sits at 2,500 students per school nurse. Many critics have said that a mandatory additional year may scare away many potential school nurses.
“Hospitals have to compete for RN’s,” said Rebecca Levy, who has been a school nurse at 3 schools in Los Angeles and Ventura counties. “School nurses really want to help children specifically. But if they need another year for sure, and not have a five year preliminary certification, we’re going to see even less. Many take those early years to make sure that they really want to do this. If there’s a demand for another year of specific schooling, that can’t be used in anywhere BUT schools, that’s going to turn many away.
Yes, a lot of what you learn there is important, but if you’re a nurse deciding between a school and becoming a regular RN in a hospital, and the school requires something more off the bat, you’re most likely going to pick the hospital or another place.”
AB 2175 is due to be heard in Assembly committees next month.