TOWNSEND - There's a dire shortage of school nurses in Massachusetts and it could be a problem for years.
Cathryn Hampson is President of the Massachusetts School Nursing Association. She says school nurses have a unique job that not only requires the heart but the hardiness to see it through, which may be why schools across the state are facing a shortage.
"Many districts are working understaffed and still trying to hire into school nursing positions," Hampson told WBZ.
Substitute nurses are also in demand, creating another set of challenges.
"We've seen several districts that have three and four positions unfilled, which means they're floating other nurses to cover those schools or working those schools understaffed because they don't have the people to work there," she said.
Hampson said nursing is an aging population and many young people are choosing not to go into the profession.
"All of us who went into nursing are getting older and looking forward to retirement but there are not enough people coming out of high school and going into nursing to fill all of the positions that are out there," she said.
Hampson said another reason for the nursing staffing shortage has been the pandemic over the past two years. Nurses have been overwhelmed by not only trying to keep the students safe but themselves safe as well.
"The pandemic definitely accelerated it. Nurses were looking at incredibly long hours. Unable to be with their families, and some chose to leave because the workload just got to heavy," she said.
To help find a solution, the Massachusetts School Nursing Association is working closely with DESE and DPH to adjust what is required of school nurses to get hired and to find ways to attract high school students to the professions.
"Are there ways to get people in a little quicker and little less experience and bring them up?" she said.
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