HomeTop StoriesFewer than half of Minnesota school districts employ registered nurses, the report...

Fewer than half of Minnesota school districts employ registered nurses, the report said

An extensive study by the Minnesota Department of Health shows that many of the state’s schools, especially those that serve more low-income families, do not have a certified school nurse.

The report, “Minnesota School Nurse Workforce: A 2022 Snapshot,” analyzed data from 94% of the state’s public and charter schools.

“This is the first time we have had such a comprehensive picture of school nurses and health care workers in Minnesota,” Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Brooke Cunningham said in a press release about the report. “What we have learned is that students in smaller districts, charter schools and schools that serve more lower-income families do not have the same access to a school nurse as other students in Minnesota.”

Findings

The research shows that there are differences between neighborhoods. In the 162 school districts where 40% or more of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, students were three times less likely to have access to nursing or health care than other schools.

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The survey found that just under half of Minnesota school districts, 49%, employ a licensed school nurse, or LSN. To be a certified school nurse in Minnesota, a bachelor’s degree in nursing is required and current registration through the Board of Nursing as both a certified registered nurse and a public health nurse.

Most of these LSNs work in larger districts because a state law requires districts with more than 1,000 students, approximately 34% of the state’s districts, to employ a certified school nurse. The report says 93% of districts covered by that law had a fully licensed school nurse, but only 26% of districts had below that threshold, meaning students’ access to school-based care varied significantly.

Some schools that did not employ an LSN still had a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse in the district, but 26% of Minnesota schools did not have a staff fully dedicated to student health care.

“Access to quality health care is critical for Minnesota students, regardless of their zip code,” said Minnesota Education Commissioner Willie Jett. “School nurses play an important role in the overall health and well-being of our youth.”

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Financing

The study’s recommendations include calls for more thorough and regular data on school nurses, and better strategies to fund smaller districts and districts with higher student needs. And since the data was collected in 2022, funding has changed.

“Over the past two terms, Governor Tim Walz and the Minnesota Legislature have made significant investments in school support staff – including school nurses. The investments include $74 million in the ’24-25 biennium and $127 million in the ’26-27 biennium to support the hiring of new or increased numbers of current school counselors, psychologists, social workers and certified school nurses,” the release said.

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