(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 received final legislative approval Thursday and now heads to the governor’s desk.
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.
“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.”
The State board in 2013 adopted amendments codified at N.J.A.C. 6A:9-13.3 and 6A:9A-13.4 that reduced credit requirements for a school nurse endorsement from 30 to 21 semester hour credits, and reduced credit requirements for a non-instructional school nurse endorsement from 21 to 15 semester hour credits. The amendments also eliminated the requirement that a candidate complete a minimum of 6 credits in a college supervised school nurse practicum, half of which is completed in a school nurse office and the balance of which is completed in a classroom.
The bill would codify the minimum hours as required by the 2013 regulations, but reinstate 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.
Under the bill, the minimum credits that school nurse endorsement candidates and non-instructional school nurse endorsement candidates have to complete must include study in the fundamentals of substance abuse and dependency and such other subject areas as determined by the State board.
The bill was approved 74-0 by the Assembly, and 38-0 by the Senate in October.