On National School Nurses Day, Tester Proposes Bill to Provide Montana Kids with Better Care

Senator introduces legislation during #NationalNursesWeek to hire more school nurses, improve health in public schools

(U.S. Senate) – On National School Nurses Day, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is renewing his push to help under-resourced schools hire nurses and provide critical health care to students.

“Our schools are increasingly becoming the primary sources of health care for Montana kids,” Tester said. “Without nurses, many students would go without access to care. Providing schools with the resources they need to keep nurses on staff will allow our kids to get a quality education in a healthy environment.”

Schools in Montana often serve as a primary source of health care for students. However, half of Montana’s counties lack school nurses entirely and only four counties in the state meet the recommended student-to-nurse ratio.

So today, Tester reintroduced his Nurses for Under-Resourced Schools Everywhere (NURSE) Act, to provide under-resourced schools with the funding they need to hire school nurses, so students can get the health care services they need but often don’t have access to.

The NURSE Act authorizes federal grants through the U.S. Department of Education to help schools and state agencies cover the cost of hiring school nurses in underserved schools. School districts would be eligible to apply based on their number of students who qualify for free or reduced school meals.

Tester has continually fought to provide schools and students with better access to mental and physical health care. Last year, he pushed to increase access to mental health care in Montana’s public schools after a study of Great Falls Public School students found that 25 percent of high school students had seriously considered committing suicide.

Tester’s NURSE Act has received widespread support from nursing and education organizations:

“Student’s physical and mental health care needs have increased dramatically over the past few years. The school nurse provides vital front-line care which helps students succeed,” said Nina Fekaris, President of the National Association of School Nurses. “The Nurses for Under-Resourced Schools Everywhere (NURSE) Act provides necessary funds to increase student’s access to school nursing services. Our nation’s future depends upon the health and academic success of its children. Having a school nurse in the school, all day every day, will help all children meet their full potential. Better Health, Better Learning.”

“The American Academy of Pediatrics is proud to support the NURSE Act and recommends every school have a school nurse on site to provide immediate, appropriate care for children,” said Kyle Yasuda, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “As more students enter school with health or mental health problems, including those facing family crises, homelessness, immigration, poverty, and violence, it becomes that much more important for them to have a trusted, on-site school nurse to turn to for care in real-time. The Academy thanks Senator Jon Tester for his leadership on this issue, and is urging for the bill’s swift advancement.”

“School nurses provide exceptional physical and mental health care, in addition to creating safe and healthy environments where children and teachers can focus on academic excellence,” said Ernest Grant, President of the American Nurses Association. “The NURSE Act acknowledges school nurses’ impact and deploys critical resources that can address social determinants of health. Thank you, Senator Tester for your commitment to this important legislation.”

“Trust for America’s Health applauds the introduction of the NURSE Act, which would provide competitive federal grants to school districts, boards, and state educational agencies to reduce the cost of hiring a nurse in public elementary and secondary schools,” said John Auerbach, CEO & President of Trust for America’s Health. “As a trusted and core component of the school health team, school nurses play a critical role in promoting optimal student health and learning. Research shows that students with chronic health conditions-such as asthma or obesity-are more likely to miss school and experience lower academic achievement than their peers. Managing these chronic conditions, or when possible, preventing them, is essential to giving every student the chance to succeed both inside and outside of the classroom.”

“On behalf of more than 9,000 pediatric nurse practitioners and fellow pediatric-focused advanced practice registered nurses committed to providing optimal health care to children, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) appreciates Senator Tester’s leadership in reintroducing the NURSE Act,” said Dawn Garzon Maaks, President of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners. “This legislation will help to recognize the critical role performed by our nation’s school nurses in assuring that students have readily accessible quality health care so that they are ready to perform at their best in school.”

“School nurses are critical in keeping students in school, and helping to keep entire school communities healthy. From assisting students with managing chronic illnesses to responding to emergencies, school nurses do it all,” said Marc Egan, Director of Government Relations at the National Education Association. “The NURSE Act would help provide more school nurses to communities in need. As Senator Tester recognizes, only by meeting the full array of students’ needs can we set all children off toward a great future, no matter where they live or go to school.”

“The primary goal of schools is to educate students but learning becomes more difficult for students in poor health. School nurses have a crucial role in assuring the physical health, mental health, and safety of children and youth, all of which are directly related to student achievement,” said Karen Graf, State Director of the Montana Association of School Nurses. “School Nurses are key in the delivery and coordination of care, education, identification of resources, and advocacy. The NURSE Act would help make it possible for more Montana schools to realize the benefit of a school nurse in their community ensuring our Montanan students are healthy, safe and ready to learn.”

“There is a continued need for healthcare services for our elementary and secondary students. Access to health care to include management of chronic disease, mental health, and health promotion are managed by school nurses on the front lines, providing holistic healthcare to all students across Montana,” said Vicky Byrd, CEO of the Montana Nurses Association. “It is undeniable that there is a need for more school nurses in our state and others, as this is a crucial step for our public school students to benefit from this critical access to healthcare. School nurses help to ensure that students’ various health needs are met so that they can meet their full emotional, physiological, and academic potential.”

Text of the NURSE Act is available HERE.