School nurse shortage troubles parents

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A school nurse shortage throughout North Carolina makes parents like Christine Motsinger nervous to leave their kids at school.

"It's something that I get very nervous about every single day when I'm dropping him off, and I don't breathe that sigh of relief until I pick him up every day," she said.

Since birth, Motsinger's 3-year-old son Seth has had severe food allergies to many common foods like peanuts, peas, beans and bananas.

So Motsinger's cause for concern is that her child's school, Davie Academy, does not have a full-time nurse.

"It just takes one child, one reaction, one asthma attack, and not having a nurse on staff for something tragic to happen," she said.

Of all the counties in North Carolina, Davidson County has the worst student to nurse ratio -- 3,625 to one.

But Forsyth County Health Department's School Health Supervisor, Caren Jenkins, says she would love to have more nurses on staff in Forsyth County, too. Right now, its ratio is 1,849 students to each nurse.

"Right now we're just doing the best we can to work individually to give the best top notch care we can," Jenkins said.

She also noted that County Commissioners recently approved funding to add two more full-time nurses in Forsyth County schools. She hopes this will be a trend every year.

Because of the nurse shortage, Jenkins says school nurses have trained teachers to handle emergency situations, like administering EpiPens.

Parents like Christine Motsinger say no teacher with a few days or weeks of medical training can substitute a nurse who has gone through years of schooling.

"You've got teachers that are already overworked," Motsinger said. "So when you have to make a five minute decision as to whether to administer an epipen or not, you really want somebody that is trained for that...to be able to save that life."

The best student to nurse ratio in the state is Pamlico County Schools, at 318 to one.

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