Tester introduces bill to hire more school nurses, improve student health
(U.S. SENATE) - Senator Jon Tester is celebrating National School Nurse Day by introducing legislation to help more Montana schools hire nurses and improve student health.
Nearly 50 percent of Montana's counties have no school nursing services, and studies show that the state's student to nurse ratio is more than 2.5 times higher than the recommended level.
With May 7 being National School Nurse Day, Tester - whose daughter is a nurse - says today is a good opportunity to bring attention to the need to hire more nurses, especially in rural schools and communities.
"Taking care of our students doesn't stop at the classroom doors," said Tester, a former teacher. "When we improve student health, we make it easier for them to learn. More nurses will help students get the care they need to focus on their studies and strengthen our communities."
Tester's bill, the NURSE Act, will allow schools or groups of schools to apply for grants to reduce the cost of supporting a nurse. The bill is modeled on the highly successful COPS grant program that requires local governments to share in the cost of hiring and retaining police officers.
Tester specifically changed a previous version of the bill to increase the size of the grant and give preference to schools without any nurses at all.
The National Association of School Nurses supports Tester's plan. Montana Director Sue Buswell says often the school nurse is the only source of accessible health care for many students.
"Senator Tester's support for school nursing services is both timely and necessary," Buswell said. "The rural nature of Montana and the hardships of poverty affect access to educational and health care services for a large percentage of school-aged children. School nurses can bridge many of the gaps and contribute toward a healthy and productive future for every child."
Tester and Buswell also said the bill will help bring more nurses to the Bakken region in eastern Montana, where the absence of nurses and lack of health care services is affecting children.
Tester's NURSE Act stands for Nurses for Under-Resourced Schools Everywhere Act.