What Is a School Nurse?

A school nurse works with school-aged children in the educational setting. Students experiencing illness or injury during the school day often report to the school nurse for assessment. Administering routine medications, caring for a child with a virus, or stabilizing a child until emergency services arrive after a more serious injury may all be a part of the job requirements. Resources are often limited and the school nurse must know when the child needs a higher level of care or when parents need to be called. The school nurse may also be required to educate students and staff about health-related issues.

Becoming a School Nurse

A nurse can apply to work at a school upon becoming an RN. Beyond the physical health expertise needed to be a successful school nurse, good candidates also have experience in mental health, school policy and law, and must be comfortable working with children. School nurses must also possess excellent communication skills, as they work with teachers, administrators, and parents. Being in a school setting means that sometimes nurses have a hand in students' social well-being and anti-bullying measures, so being comfortable with resolving conflict is an important skillset to maintain.

What Are the Education Requirements for School Nurses?

Nurses who hold an Associate's degree and even Licensed Professional Nurses are often eligible to apply for this type of position, although the National Association of School Nurses recommends hiring RNs with a 4-year BSN degree who have passed the NCLEX-RN exam. Most schools prefer to hire nurses who have a few years of experience under the belt in a clinical setting, as school nurses must make critical decisions without a doctor onsite to assist them.

Are Any Certifications or Credentials Needed?

The National Board of Certification for School Nurses (NBCSN) offers the certification for school nurses. It requires a Bachelor's degree and an RN license, as well as at least 1,000 hours of clinical experience within 3 years prior to taking the test. Since school nursing services are governed on the state level, each state may have their own set of certification or licensing requirements as well. The National Association of School Nurses has affiliate chapters in each state that can help determine what additional requirements, if any, are necessary.

Where Do School Nurses Work?

School nurses work in nearly all educational facilities, including public schools, private schools, vocational and/or alternative schools, and more. They can also work in international schools or on US military bases. While school nurses typically work in a health office on a school campus, budget cuts have increasingly forced employed school nurses to travel amongst schools in a particular district, for example. School nurses typically work daytime hours when school is in session, and many have summers, holidays, and other school breaks off.

What Does a School Nurse Do?

Schools nurses are tasked with taking care of the physical and mental well-being of students on a school campus. This involves assessing ill or injured students, administering treatment or first aid, and deciding if a student's parents or emergency services need to be contacted. Students with chronic issues like asthma or allergies may enlist the school nurse to help with administering necessary medications or treatments on a regular basis. School nurses may also help assess and treat students with mental health issues like ADHD.

What Are the Roles and Duties of a School Nurse?

  • Provide physical and mental health care to students
  • Treat illnesses such as fevers, colds, stomach aches, and other ailments
  • Administer first aid and wound care to injured students
  • Assess illnesses and injuries and contact parents or emergency services if they are severe
  • Monitor and dispense students' medications
  • Provide health education to students

School Nurse Salary & Employment

The median salary of a school RN is $46,840 with a range of $37,420-$59,135. Location, type of school, experience, and certifications all affect salary.

While registered nursing employment is up in general, school nurses may not see the level of growth that other nursing specialties are seeing due to increasing budget cuts within the school system. However, school nursing jobs are generally low-stress jobs with good hours, so they are highly desirable for those who don't want to work in a fast-paced hospital environment.

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