Students & New Grads

A Full Look at the School Nurse Role

The school nurse’s job role is far more important than simply dispensing medications and calling parents to pick up children who are not feeling well. They are known as the person that bridges the gap between healthcare and education. For many children, the school nurse may be the only healthcare provider they see regularly. People who are considering applying for a school nurse job should carefully consider the role he or she will play in the lives of the children and families served by the school. In this article, we will take an in-depth look at how to become a school nurse and what the school nurse role entails.

What Does a School Nurse Do?

While the public knows that school nurses are in school buildings, many are unaware of the school nurse role and what these professionals do day in and day out. Some may be under the impression that a school nurse simply sits in their office waiting to help a child that needs a bandage or send home a student that becomes ill. But the reality is that they do so much more for the children and the school community.

The role of the modern school nurse has changed dramatically over the past decade or two. School nurses are health educators, healers, role models, and active members of the school community. When a child faces a drastic medical change, these men and women are the ones that help them acclimate back into school.

School Nurse Role and Responsibilities

One of the most important roles associated with school nurse jobs is providing direct and immediate healthcare to both students and staff. If a student or staff member becomes ill or suffers from an injury, the school nurse will be the first person available to begin treatment. This immediate availability of care can make a dramatic difference in the health of an ill or injured person.

For children with diabetes, they may see the school nurse several times a day while adjusting their routines. School nurses also help to train teachers on how to check blood glucose levels and they must be comfortable when a child’s sugar dives dangerously low for no apparent reason. When faced with potentially life-threatening scenarios, they must stay focused and remain calm.

Other responsibilities of school nurses are less intense. The management of healthcare for children, such as arranging and performing annual screenings or dispensing of medications, make up a large portion of their daily duties. When a nurse reveals a potential problem, they will consult with the family and often offer suggestions for medical follow up. If parents are unable to afford care, the school nurse will need to help them navigate state or local aide options.

Some school nurses are also responsible for running educational programs for students. They are health educators on topics that include nutrition, substance abuse prevention, sex education, and bullying, to name a few. This means staying up-to-date on topics that need to be discussed inside and outside of the classroom.

How many Years Does It Take to Become a School Nurse?

You may be asking yourself, “how do I become a school nurse and how long does it take”? Those interested in school nurse jobs need to first become registered nurses. The National Association of School Nurses recommends that you receive a 4-year BSN degree from an accredited college and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Next, school nurse hopefuls would need to have 2-3 years of clinical experience, so they are more comfortable with their nursing abilities and critical thinking skills.

Some school nurses and school nurse supervisors even have a Master’s in Science of Nursing or Master’s in Education. School nurse hopefuls may also want to become certified with the National Association of School Nurses by passing the National Board of Certification of School Nurses examination. Certification and education standards vary greatly by each state and should be examined more closely based on the state of the school nurse job.

Job Outlook for School Nurses

The outlook for school nurse jobs is positive. Many of the current school nurses are nearing retirement and their jobs will soon need to be filled. Unfortunately, the desirability of the position, as well as the limited number of nurses per school means that competition may be fierce. Be prepared by gaining pediatric experience, and certifications appropriate for your state’s requirements.

One other thing to consider is that school nurses are often the target of cuts when budgets need to be trimmed in a school district. However, the CDC notes that each building should have one school nurse for every 750 students. In some districts, nurses are shared between buildings and not every building has a dedicated professional during school hours. Currently, there are more than 73,000 school nurses in the United States.

How to be a Good School Nurse

School nurse jobs can be challenging, but they are also quite fulfilling. School nurses are not simply there to take care of sick children; they perform many levels of care that cannot be replaced by others within the school community because of their expertise. It is a perfect career choice for a person who loves children and helping them live healthier lives. School nurses should be patient and sympathetic. They should also be good decision-makers and calm in stressful situations. Most importantly, school nurses should have excellent communication skills, be respectful and sensitive since they are working with children, as well as their caregivers.