In Illinois, there aren’t enough school nurses to go around, and it’s a growing problem.

Even before COVID-19, school nurses were in short supply around the state with many schools not budgeting for a nurse, said Bridget Heroff, certified school nurse and president-elect of the Illinois Association of School Nurses.

She said coming into the pandemic, schools were not ideally staffed.

“It’s all across the whole state,” Heroff said. “There are at least 100 postings for school nurses across the state that remain unfilled.”

Working with staffing agencies isn't helping either, she said.

“There are just no school nurses to be found,” Heroff said.

Part of the problem is young professionals entering the nursing field don’t want to be the school nurse, and COVID-19 is only making the position more unpalatable, Heroff said.

“So rather than taking on the full time job of school nursing, you’re also taking on COVID, which in and of itself is another full time job so it’s a pretty big ask for anyone who isn’t already in school nursing,” Heroff said.

School nursing is not at the forefront of the profession, she pointed out, and many choose to work in hospitals and similar settings.

“While the schedule is ideal for a lot of nurses with younger children, the pay has not been comparable to that which a nurse would make in an acute care setting,” she said.

Heroff pointed out students who never had a school nurse to begin with are hurting the worst.

“Not only do they not have a school nurse to advocate for their health care needs, to help manage chronic conditions, but they also don’t have anyone working that COVID aspect to try to increase mitigation strategies to minimize transmission in schools,” she said.