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State Lawmakers to Consider School Nurses Definition Later this Month


As public schools are working towards a potential reopening in 2021, lawmakers are taking a look at school nurses.

If your local elementary school has a nurse, perhaps you assumed that person was a registered nurse. Well, think again. That's why Delegate Dawn Adams, a Democrat from Richmond, has a bill that would set a new legal definition for who can qualify to be a school nurse.

"A school nurse, historically, we assumed would be a nurse that was embedded in our school system to take care of our kids," Adams explains. "But what actually we have is somebody called a school nurse who could be a registered nurse or it could be just a neighbor who's a volunteer who's helping out."

Her bill would set a new legal definition making it clear that a school nurse is a registered nurse. The original version of her bill would have required a school nurse at every school in Virginia, but she says she's ditching that part of the bill because of reluctance from lawmakers to move forward with that kind of a requirement.

Gina Bellamy at the Virginia School Nurses Association says she hopes lawmakers will come to understand the importance of having a nurse at every school.

"It's very disappointing," says Bellamy, whose organization supports the effort to define school nurses as registered nurses.  "Parents of school children in the Commonwealth should be aware of this, and it's disappointing that our legislators cannot see the big picture here."

The big picture, she says, is keeping children safe – especially during a pandemic. School divisions across Virginia say they’re concerned about how much money it would cost them if lawmakers issued an unfunded mandate requiring them to hire a nurse at every school building in Virginia.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.