Student Well-Being

Half of School Nurses Report Being Harassed, Threatened

By Arianna Prothero — September 28, 2022 2 min read
Missy Gendron RN, Lewiston High School nurse, unpacks pooled COVID-19 testing materials on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021, at Lewiston High School in Lewiston, Maine. Gendron is going to be doing a walk through with staff next week. Classroom pooled testing is planned for the week following. Consent for COVID-19 pooled testing is being collected from parents now.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Nearly half of school nurses say they have felt bullied, threatened, or harassed since the beginning of the pandemic. And just as many say they have recently experienced adverse mental health symptoms.

Those are among the preliminary findings of a survey of 8,000 school nurses—representing all 50 states, tribal nations, U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia—by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in partnership with the National Association of School Nurses and the National Association of State School Nurse Consultants.

The pandemic was uniquely challenging for school nurses for a few different reasons, said Donna Mazyck, the executive director of the National Association of School Nurses, or NASN. First and foremost, they had a lot on their plates.

“School nurses had additional work to do that was tough to do: They were doing contact tracing, they were doing COVID testing, and they were making sure that the school staff and students were adhering to infectious disease protocols and mitigation strategies,” said Mazyck.

Because they were often overseeing the implementation of mitigation strategies, people frequently directed their frustrations with those policies at school nurses, said Mazyck, even though school nurses weren’t necessarily setting those policies.

In addition to that extra work and stress, Mazyck said, nurses also found their expertise—and commitment to the health and well-being of students—challenged to an extent it never has been before, which was demoralizing.

In the survey, 39 percent of nurses said they had also felt stigmatized or discriminated against and a quarter said they had received job-related threats.

What’s bad for school nurses is bad for students

And that’s likely taken a toll on school nurses’ mental health, said Mazyck.

Thirty percent reported experiencing symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, in the two weeks prior to taking the survey, which was administered in March of this year. A quarter said they had felt symptoms of moderate to severe depression, and 22 percent said they had felt symptoms of anxiety.

These numbers reveal a profession rocked by the pandemic, said Mazyck, that could ultimately affect schools and students.

In the short term, school nurses might be absent more often because of their struggling mental health. In the long term, burnout could lead to school nurse shortages.

“There are options for school nurses, and if where they are working is no longer a healthy environment, they won’t stay,” said Mazyck. “School nurses tend to be one of the lower paid RN or nurse positions. All of that is part of nurses saying, ‘I don’t want to be in the school anymore,’ which would present a shortage.”

Data collected by NASN show that 25 percent of schools do not have a school nurse, and Mazyck said previous survey data from NASN show it is an aging profession, with the average nurse being in their mid-50s.

See also

Image of a clipboard and stethescope.

School nurses were more likely to report symptoms related to mental health problems if they worked more than 40 hours a week; took on additional COVID-19 job duties; reported stigma, discrimination, job-related threats, or harassment; or felt unappreciated, among other issues.

Burnout is not unique to school nurses, Mazyck said. It’s something that many school support staff—such as counselors, psychologists, and social workers—are dealing with.

The CDC has not yet released the full findings of the survey.


Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Personalized Learning Webinar
No Time to Waste: Individualized Instruction Will Drive Change
Targeted support and intervention can boost student achievement. Join us to explore tutoring’s role in accelerating the turnaround. 
Content provided by Varsity Tutors for Schools
Student Well-Being K-12 Essentials Forum Social-Emotional Learning: Making It Meaningful
Join us for this event with educators and experts on the damage the pandemic did to academic and social and emotional well-being.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being What the Research Says Teen Brains Aged Prematurely During the Pandemic. Schools Should Take Note
Researchers cite chronic stress during the pandemic for the phenomenon, which can affect mental health among youth.
3 min read
Cracked silhouette of a person holding their head with illuminated gears in place of the brain.
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Student Well-Being Sports Coaches Want More Training on How to Address Young Athletes' Mental Health
A survey found that only 18 percent of coaches feel confident that they know how to connect their athletes to mental health supports.
4 min read
Physical Education teacher Amanda DeLaGarza instructs students how to stretch during 7th grade P.E. class at Cockrill Middle School on Nov. 9, 2016 in McKinney, Texas.
Schools in the United States earned a D-minus grade in 2022 in an international ranking from the Physical Activity Alliance for how well they facilitate access to physical activity for students. Research shows that physical activity, such as participation in sports, improves mental health.
Ting Shen/The Dallas Morning News via AP
Student Well-Being Opinion One Simple Thing You Can Do to Make Yourself Happier
A happiness and time researcher shares a simple hack to make experiences more pleasurable.
Cassie Holmes
1 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
Student Well-Being Schools Are Not Identifying All Their Homeless Students. Why That Is Hurting the Kids
Hundreds of thousands of homeless students are not receiving the services they need, new report says.
3 min read
A young Black girl with her head down on a stack of books at her desk in a classroom