Tester Fights to Improve Student Health in Underserved Montana Districts with NURSE Act to Hire More School Nurses

Senator’s bill addresses school nurse shortages in schools

As part of his continued work to bolster rural health care and go to bat for Montana kids, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today introduced his Nurses for Under-Resourced Schools Everywhere (NURSEAct to help rural and underserved Montana schools hire more school nurses and increase student access to care.

“Every day, our school nurses provide vital care to our students – and oftentimes these school nurses are the first and only source of health care for students in underserved communities,” said Tester. “That’s why it’s so important to provide our schools with resources they need to keep nurses on staff, and it’s why I’m proud to reintroduce this critical bill to invest not just in our school nurses, but in our students’ wellbeing.”

Tester’s NURSE Act authorizes a grant program administered through the Department of Education to help schools and state agencies cover the cost of hiring more school nurses. Schools, districts, and state education agencies would be eligible to apply for these additional resources based on the number of students qualifying for free or reduced-price school meals. This bill prioritizes grant awards for applicants with high percentages of low-income students, as well as districts with no nurses at all.

School nurses often serve as a primary health care provider for students. However, only four Montana counties meet the recommended nurse-to-student ratio, and half of all Montana counties lack school nurses entirely.

Tester’s bill is supported by Montana Nurses Association, the Montana Association of School Nurses, the Montana School Boards Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

“Nurse staffing doesn’t just affect acute care nurses,” said Vicky Byrd, MSN, RN, CEO of Montana Nurses Association (MNA). “Our local school nurses and their resources are spread very thin.  There are many children with increasingly complicated medical and mental health conditions attending our public schools and our school nurses are spread between multiple schools and/or are assigned a high number of children. Often the school is without a school nurse. Investment in school nurses is critical to the success of our children, their families, and their community. The NURSE Act does just this.”

“School nurses play a vital role in ensuring children can receive the timely and appropriate care they need, when they need it,” said Benjamin Hoffman, MD, FAAP, President of American Academy of Pediatrics. “Having an on-site school nurse is critical to supporting the health and well-being of children where they learn and spend so much of their time. All children should be able to benefit from an on-site school nurse and the NURSE Act would help make that possible, especially in under-resourced and rural areas. The American Academy of Pediatrics applauds Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) for introducing this important legislation and calls on lawmakers to swiftly advance it.”

The Montana Association of School Nurses (MASN) is proud to endorse Senator Tester’s reintroduction of his Nurses for Under-Resourced Schools Everywhere (NURSEAct,” said Lisa Flanagan, MSN, RN, NCSN, President of Montana Association of School Nurses (MASN). “Funding for school nurses is crucial. They serve as vital health hubs, managing chronic conditions, addressing mental health concerns, and bridging health disparities among students. The urgency of passing the NURSE Act is paramount; it is essential for supporting our nation’s children, dismantling barriers, and ensuring equal access to healthcare for academic success. By advocating for the NURSE Act, we champion both individual student well-being and the broader pursuit of a more inclusive and equitable educational landscape.”

“The academic success of Montana’s students is directly connected to their physical and mental wellness, and access to school nurses is critical to supporting student health,” said Lance Melton, Executive Director, Montana School Boards Association. “School nurses provide a unique set of skills and expertise in the school environment and the NURSE Act will support school districts in meeting the diverse and varied needs of Montana students.”

Full text of Tester’s NURSE Act can be found HERE.  


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