Some DC schools go without nurses amid shortage of health care staff

School nurses are in short supply in D.C. schools. Not every school has one. Meanwhile, those that do have a nurse cannot monitor or screen kids for COVID-19 symptoms.

There’s no question the shortage of health care workers is affecting the District’s schools, Council member Charles Allen told WTOP.

“We have a lot of schools in D.C. that don’t have a full-time nurse and a lot of parents are concerned about that,” he said.

As D.C. Public Schools competes with hospitals and medical practices looking to hire nurses, Chancellor Lewis Ferebee told council members it has hired personnel to ensure comprehensive health care for students.

“We have hired over 240 patient care technicians who are responsible for supervising isolation spaces, and in addition to that, [they] help with all of our COVID-related responses, including our screening procedures in the morning as well,” Ferebee said.

But parents like Nura Green Lane are frustrated by the siloing of responsibilities and said that school nurses’ training should be better utilized.

“Extend the use of school nurses — they are an asset. School nurses must have the ability to provide COVID-19 testing immediately for the affected classrooms and allow them to administer the vaccine. It’s available,” Green Lane said during her council hearing testimony Wednesday.

While Allen explained that the reason behind keeping nurses from COVID-19 duties is to allow them to focus on providing routine health care to children, many schools don’t even have that basic resource in place.

In response to whether DCPS is hiring more health care staff, spokesperson Enrique Gutierrez said in a statement that the District has invested in the “health services operation” to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“We have tripled the size of our Student Health Services operation, who create and implement policies and act as a liaison between schools and the Department of Health,” Gutierrez said. “DCPS has expanded its full-time contact tracing team and now has 10 dedicated individuals working with schools to identify close contacts of any COVID-19 positive case. [The D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education] is also providing 10 dedicated medical assistants to support testing and contact tracing in our schools.”

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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