Audit: Replacing school nurses with aides saves money
Topeka A recent audit showed that an eastern Kansas school district could save money by employing health aides instead of nurses, but the district's recent superintendent said nurses are worth the extra money because of the services they can provide.
A Legislative Post Audit study of staffing and other practices at Auburn-Washburn Unified School District 437 showed the 6,200-student district could save $68,000 a year by replacing four of its 10 nurses with health aides. The switch also would save the state $9,000 a year in pension funding because lower pay would mean lower retirement obligations.
According to the legislative audit, nurses' salaries are about $19,000 higher than salaries for their unlicensed counterparts.
But Brenda Dietrich, superintendent of the Auburn-Washburn district from 2001 until last month, said the district considers nurses worth the money.
"Our parents just feel so much more comfortable" with a nurse on staff, Dietrich told The Topeka Capital-Journal. "It's kind of an expectation from their perspective that we take good care of their kids."
The audit suggested the district could have some nurses split their time between more than one school, which would involve going from one nurse at each of 10 schools, plus two aides districtwide, to a total of six nurses and six aides.
USD 437 began employing one nurse per building in 2002 when it also started offering full-day kindergarten. But Dietrich said the district would consider hiring a certified nurse's assistant instead of a nurse next time it needs to fill an opening at its smallest building.
Under Kansas regulations, schools can employ health aides with monitoring by nurses. Health aides can perform some tasks with nurse supervision, such as giving oral medications and insulin shots and helping with health screenings, immunization tracking and clerical work.
Nurses are required for such things as giving intravenous prescription medications and writing health care and emergency plans for students with allergies, asthma and other conditions.