Guilford County government, like most businesses, has had a lot of trouble filling vacancies in recent years – and it’s been particularly difficult to find and keep school nurses, which are hired and overseen by the Guilford County Division of Public Health.

But there has been good news on that front recently.

For much of this century, school advocates complained that the county wasn’t providing enough school nurse positions, and, in recent years the county has added them.  Now, there are 65 positions – which should mean roughly one nurse for every two schools in the Guilford County Schools system.

School officials were very happy to see the addition of those jobs. However, for years, it’s been an immense challenge filling them.  Vacancies have been a real problem in other county departments as well – detention officer positions, for instance.  However, the very high demand for medical personnel has made finding school nurses a real bear.

But that situation is now getting better fast and recently Guilford County Health Director Dr. Iulia Vann reported to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners that the department had experienced “huge new movement on our recruitment and retention efforts” in regard to school nurses.

Of the 65 school nurse positions, 56 of them have now been filled. That’s still a nearly 15 percent vacancy rate – however, county officials were happy that the number is finally now down to a somewhat manageable and hopeful level.

Guilford County Commissioner Mary Beth Murphy, a teacher in the Guilford County School system who was elected to the board three years ago, said things have greatly improved when it comes to keeping those school nurse positions filled.

“When I came on board, we had tens of vacant seats in this area and now it is very exciting to hear that we are at single digits and headed to zero,” Murphy told Vann at the meeting.

Murphy said that, in the past, each nurse had to serve three or four schools, which was a real strain on everyone.

Commissioner Carly Cooke said at the meeting that she hoped that all the vacancies will be filled soon and she also expressed her desire that the Board of Commissioners fund more school nurse positions in the future.