While a majority of US public schools lack a sufficient number of nurses, psychologists, speech language pathologists and other healthcare professionals, a majority are also turning to contingent workers, according to a study by healthcare staffing AMN Healthcare Services Inc.
The study’s survey found that 52% of public school administrators report their schools are understaffed in terms of healthcare professionals. It found 27% lack a school psychologist, 21% do not have a registered nurse and 17% do not have a speech language pathologist.
Psychologists were the most difficult type of healthcare professional to recruit, according to 65% of schools surveyed. They were followed by speech language pathologists, 63%, and registered behavioral technicians, 60%.
“Many public schools are struggling to find the healthcare professionals they need at a time when the fallout from Covid-19 and rising mental health challenges are driving demand for school-based caregivers,” David Schmiesing, president of AMN Healthcare’s Schools division, said in a press release.
Of public school administrators who reported their schools are understaffed, 77% said the understaffing has a moderate to major impact on student well-being.
Already, 73% of public schools use contract professionals to fill staff vacancies, only 17% did not and 10% were unsure, according to AMN. These are professionals who typically work on a nine-month contract rather than a permanent position. The primary reason schools are turning to these workers is because of the difficulty finding permanent workers.
Schools are taking other steps to bridge the talent shortage, including the use of teletherapy to offer speech language pathology, 29%; raising salaries of healthcare professionals, 34%; and seeking more funds for healthcare professional pay and recruitment.
The survey included responses from 243 schools with the survey taking place between Jan. 24 and Feb. 17.