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State Senate refuses to roll back school nurse requirements

State House Bureau

April 12. 2018 8:02PM

CONCORD — A two-year debate over school nurse credentials took another turn on Thursday as the state Senate voted to kill a House bill (HB 1217) that would have rolled back tougher and more costly licensing requirements approved in 2016.

“We need to have school nurses who are on top of the details and know what’s going on,” said Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Whitefield, in opposition to the rollback. “We settled this issue last year. The policy has been set. We need to keep the policy and not be flip-flopping all over the place every two years.”

State Sen. Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester, said the new requirements put “a terrible burden” on Manchester, which has 22 nurses in its school system.

“They are doing their job and doing it well. You don’t have to have a BS in nursing to do that,” he said.

School nurses hired before July 1, 2016, are “grandfathered” and do not have to meet the new requirements.

A nursing license from the state Board of Nursing used to be sufficient for a school nurse, but a bill passed in 2016 and signed into law by Gov. Maggie Hassan changed that.

The new law states that school nurses hired after July 1, 2016, have to be certified by the Board of Education, just like teachers, as well as the Board of Nursing.

While an associate degree is sufficient for a state nursing license, it would no longer qualify for school nursing certification, which will require a bachelor’s degree.

Candidates will also need three years of experience in pediatric nursing or related areas, and will have to commit to continuing education. Like teachers, they will have to be recertified every three years by the Department of Education, at a cost of $130 to $150, in addition to what they pay for their nursing licenses.

A Legislative committee that presides over rules and regulations in September voted to give nurses affected by the new rules another six years to comply.

HB 1217, which would toss the new rules out completely and revert to the old standards, passed the House in February by a wide margin, 233-107.

“Nurses are getting hard to find and what this will do is make it harder for districts to find them,” said Sen. Bob Giuda, in urging the Senate to back the House bill. “There has not been a single case of any problem from the current standards, no harm of any kind.”

The proposal to extend the deadline for newly hired nurses to meet the new requirements was proposed by the Board of Education, and gives them until 2023 to obtain the four-year degree.

“This has been worked on for several years, and what we arrived at last year was a reasonable compromise,” said Sen. Dan Feltes, D-Concord.

Senators voted 14-8 against repealing the new certification requirements.

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