A school nurse works with children from preschool through high school. They are responsible for keeping children healthy and promoting wellness, disease management and hygienic health practices. Once limited to bandaging skinned knees and taking temperatures, today’s school nurses handle a complex set of responsibilities designed to sustain a healthy learning environment.
Beyond standard pediatric concerns, familiarity with chronic diseases, substance abuse, public health, learning disabilities and psychiatry is also critical. Although nurses may hold credentials ranging from an RN to a PhD, the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) officially recommends a Bachelor of Nursing (BSN) degree, current RN licensure and NASN certification.
What Does a School Nurse Do?
The responsibilities of school nurses vary depending on state requirements and the size of the school. All school nurses share similar tasks and responsibilities, however, including:
- Assessing and monitoring unwell or injured children
- Child advocacy, including identifying families that may benefit from social services intervention
- Monitoring chronic conditions like diabetes, asthma and food allergies
- Identifying potentially serious medical problems
- Coordinating and implementing disease prevention programs
- Basic first aid
- Administering prescription medication
- Communicating with parents and family physicians
- Developing and managing of Individualized Education Plans
- Performing procedures like intravenous gastronomy feedings, tracheostomy and catheter maintenance for physically disabled students
Nursing professionals in many schools also oversee health services departments; promote wellness among students and faculty via outreach programs; and contribute their professional expertise to nutrition, physical education or athletic programs.
Potential Work Settings
- Elementary Schools
- Middle/Jr. High schools
- High schools
- Alternative schools
- Vocational schools
- Overseas military bases
- Summer camps
What Does It Take to Become a School Nurse?
School nurses often work with little oversight, particularly from other medical professionals. To effectively promote health and wellness campaigns in the school and surrounding community, school nurses must be able to work with limited direction. Taking initiative with parents, families, faculty and other professionals requires confidence in your abilities and the willingness to experiment with new ideas.
School nurses must be able to communicate effectively with students, teachers, parents, extended family members, school administrators and other medical professionals. The ability to be understood across a spectrum of ages, industries, personalities and backgrounds is essential for success.
School nurses bear the burden of considerable paperwork, perhaps more than in other nursing specialties. Organization is key to producing accurate, compliant and timely documentation in both education and nursing.
As a rule, nurses should be compassionate, particularly when working with children. Children may be fearful of medical environments and resistant to even the most gentle intervention from a school nurse. Understanding children and adolescents’ reaction to discomfort can help nurses cross barriers and provide students with the care they need.
Desire to Educate
Much of a school nurse’s focus is on educating students about practices that contribute to better health. Educational initiatives have positive ripple effects, first within students’ families and later throughout the greater community. School nurses may be uniquely positioned to capture the ear of an audience that may not have other access to this information. Enthusiasm for sharing healthy practices and lifestyle choices brings these important messages to the public.
Love of Children
Any educator or parent can attest to the particular trials and joys of working with children. Students can be loud, boisterous, rebellious or defiant, but working with children and teens can also be one of the most rewarding careers for nursing professionals today. Understanding and accepting the social, psychological and behavioral factors that drive student behavior is crucial to working in this environment.
Sense of Ethics
Nurses working in schools are often privy to sensitive information about students, their families and their associated medical concerns. School nurses must have the utmost respect for privacy, and refrain from allowing personal bias to impact professional judgment in delicate situations.
School Nurse Information and Job Outlook
How much do school nurses make?
- Median Hourly Wage: $19.81
- Mean Salary: $45,568
Source: Data taken from Payscale. Accessed: July 2018.
Nurses Are in Demand
- 438,100 New Jobs
- 7.9% Growth in Educational Service Nursing
- 6,800 New Educational Service Nursing Jobs by 2026
- 15% More Nursing Jobs Expected to Be Created between 2016 and 2026
Source: Data taken from The Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed: September 2018.
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