Half of Minnesota schools have no student nurse, MDH survey finds

Once a staple of childhood illnesses during the school year, a survey conducted by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) found that many school districts in the state are going without a nurse.

The Minnesota School Nurse Workforce report, the state’s first comprehensive survey of its kind, focused on the school nurse workforce in 2022 in response to the impact the COVID-19 pandemic had on health.

The MDH report surveyed 94% of Minnesota’s public and charter schools, and found that many schools – particularly those with more low-income families – lack access to a school nurse.

The survey found that in the 162 school districts where 40% or more of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch – before it became free statewide – data showed students were three times less likely to have access to nursing or health services than other schools.

According to the report, 49% of Minnesota school districts employed a licensed school nurse.  

"What we’ve learned is the students in smaller districts, charter schools, and schools that serve more families with lower incomes just aren’t getting that same access to a school nurse as other students in Minnesota," said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Brooke Cunningham in a statement accompanying the report.

The report also found that students in districts with less than 500 students, as well as charter schools, had lower access to a professional nurse.

Almost half of public school districts (150 of 322, or 47%) served more than 1,000 students whereas the majority (73%) of charter schools served fewer than 500 students, MDH says.

"Access to quality health care is critical for students in Minnesota, no matter their ZIP code," Minnesota Commissioner of Education Willie Jett said in a statement. "School nurses play an important role in the overall health and well-being of our young people."

However, the report found that 26% of school districts did not provide any staff dedicated solely to the role of providing health services for students.

Throughout the last two legislative sessions, $74 million in the 2024-25 biennium and $127 million in the 2026-27 biennium to support hiring new or increasing current school counselors, psychologists, social workers and licensed school nurses.

The full report can be found on the MDH School Health Data and Reports website.