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Ask Allie: Do schools in north St. Louis County have nurses?

School nurses have been in short supply for years and are needed more than ever in this pandemic

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. — In Thursday's "Ask Allie" segment, we answered Twitter user Tee Michelle's question. 

She wrote Allie Corey asking, "If the pandemic is such a concern and higher risk in north county, how is it that schools in NoCo don't have nurses?"

Like every industry in the country right now, school nurses are being stretched thin. This isn’t new though. The school nurse shortage was going on long before the pandemic.

A study published in the Journal of School Nursing in 2018 shows 81.9% of public schools have a full or part-time nurse. Just 34.6% of private schools employ a full or part-time nurse.

The data also shows 25% of schools in the country don't have a nurse at all.

Jennings superintendent Dr. Paula Knight said not having a nurse is simply not an option in a pandemic.

"The role of the nurse has indeed shifted, we cannot have school without our nurses," explained Dr. Knight.

The Jennings district has one RN, four LPN’s and one health clerk for its six schools and one alternative school in the district.

Still, Dr. Knight said it can be overwhelming at times.

"Sometimes the nurses are bombarded with kids and we do have alternative staff who will come in and say how can I help, what can I do?" she explained.

Pattonville has 13 RN's and Hazelwood has 33 RN’s, plus an additional nine clinic aides.

The Ferguson/Florissant district has 16 nurses. A spokesperson there told 5 On Your Side they recently enlisted the help of a health care staffing agency to hire another eight at the start of this year to fill some empty spots.

We reached out to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services to get a better idea of how many school nurses were in schools across the state.

“Of the 518 public schools, we know that there are 363 with health services led by an RN, 103 by an LPN and 44 with a health aide or clerk. Only eight public schools did not report on staffing in their health room and these are all districts with student enrollment less than 150,” communications director Lisa Cox said.

According to the Missouri Department of Health, funding for school nurses is dependent on local revenue. That is why some of the smallest districts in the state don't have one and it’s not required.