Fresno Unified dealing with growing shortage of school nurses

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Pam Larios loves her job, she's been a school nurse with Fresno Unified for 18 years.

Ideally, Fresno Unified would like a registered nurse at each school, but that is becoming more and more out of reach.

"When I can't even fill 10 positions over a six month period, to think of trying to hire to the point where I have over 100 RN's-- it's not realistic," said Gail Williams, Fresno Unified Health Services Director.

Fresno Unified is facing a school nurse shortage. The district started the year with 10 vacancies and midway through the school year, officials are still working hard to fill half of them.

On top of Fresno Unified's five vacancies there are also a number of school nurses who are set to retire soon. Twenty five percent of Fresno Unified's 48 nurses are either eligible for retirement or about to be.

"It's a difficult to fill position. There's a lot of autonomy," said Williams.

Officials are grappling with finding new, eligible candidates to fill the need.

In the meantime one registered nurse is assigned to several schools.

"I serve three schools. I serve Roeding Elementary, Del Mar Elementary, and Williams Elementary. And my school population between the three schools is approximately 2,500 students," said Larios.

The job of a school nurse has also changed a lot over the last couple of decades. Gone are the days of just slapping a band-aid on a cut or checking a child's temperature.

"We have diabetics, we have seizure students. We have kids with anaphylactic reactions. We have asthmatics, we do tube feedings," said Larios.

While there is no shortage of nurses or nursing students Fresno Unified said it is hoping to boost its recruiting tactics to encourage more nurses to consider the many benefits, and great schedule, of a school nurse.
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