(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Marlene Caride, Troy Singleton, Mila Jasey and Benjie Wimberly to restore previous certification requirements for school nurses to ensure they are aptly qualified to care for students was approved Monday by the Senate Education Committee.
The bill (A-1256) was prompted by the State Board of Education’s decision in 2013 to reduce the minimum requirements to apparently address the shortage in nurses. However, the New Jersey State Nurses Association contends the reason for the change was to reduce costs for school districts by hiring less qualified applicants at lower salaries. The bill would restore the previous requirements.
“Lowering these requirements reduces salaries by using lesser skilled nurses, and jeopardizes the health of our students,” said Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic). “School districts have to do more with less and are looking for ways to reduce costs. I get that. But it should not be done at the expense of our children.”
“The responsibilities of a school nurse can be very demanding and we should not lessen the importance of the job or the need for qualified professionals to do it,” said Singleton (D-Burlington). “Any professional tasked with the healthcare of others should be well-vetted.”
“Putting the health of students in the hands of nominally skilled nurses is a gamble no school district should be willing to take,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “This ensures that nurses who want to work in our schools receive the accreditation needed to provide students with quality care.”
“School nurses are the first line of defense when a child gets sick at school,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Do we really want to risk the well-being of our students by placing lesser skilled nurses in our schools as a savings measure? Even if you are not a parent, I think the consensus is no.”
Under the bill, (A-1256) a candidate for a school nurse endorsement would have to complete a minimum of 30 semester hour credits that include study in subject areas determined by the state board and clinical experience in a school nurse office, in addition to holding a license as a registered nurse and having a bachelor’s degree.
The bill would also codify the previous requirement that a candidate for a school nurse endorsement must complete a college-supervised school nurse practicum experience in a school nurse office and a classroom.
With regard to non-instructional school nurses, the bill would require a candidate for a non-instructional school nurse endorsement to complete a minimum of 21 credits that includes study in subject areas determined by the state board and clinical experience in a school nurse office, in addition to holding a license as a registered nurse and having a bachelor’s degree.
The bill was approved 56-16-2 by the Assembly in February. It now heads to the full Senate for final legislative approval.