Although the majority of nurses work in hospitals, rehab centers and home health, nurses also work in alternative settings including schools. Whether you are an experienced RN looking for a new challenge or are a recent grad considering becoming a school nurse, it’s helpful to have a good understanding of what a school nurse does and how to get started.
Responsibilities of a School Nurse
If you think back to elementary school, you might remember your school nurse doing head lice checks or handing out cough drops. School nurses do much more now than you might have realized.
The responsibilities of a school nurse may vary, but they play a vital role in helping kids stay well. School nurses maintain student’s health records and make sure state requirements, such as immunizations, are met. Nurses also provide health-related education and conduct certain health screenings, such as vision and hearing tests.
One important function of a school nurse is to assist students on campus with health needs, which may include treating minor problems, dispensing medication and providing emergency medical care.
Many school nurses also give presentations on health-related subjects and promote school health education programs, such as drug abuse prevention.
Opportunities and Work Environment
School nurses’ work primarily in private and public schools, which serve kindergarten through high school. But school nurses are also employed by early childhood education programs and alternative and vocational schools. Some school nurses have to travel between different schools in the district they are working in.
Because of funding cuts and limited opportunities, competition to get a job as a school nurse may be tough. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but it’s helpful to do everything you can to boost your qualifications. For example, it may be helpful to work or volunteer as a nurse at a summer camp. If you have experience working in pediatrics, it may also increase your chances of finding a job as a school nurse.
Qualifications to Work as a School Nurse
Although some schools may hire a licensed vocational nurse, many districts prefer to hire registered nurses. In most cases, a two or four-year degree in nursing is required, along with a state registered nursing license.
The amount of experience required to work as a school nurse varies by district. But since school nurses work independently, it’s advisable to have at least a few years of experience working in a hospital or similar setting. Although working in pediatrics or emergency medicine provides great experience, any acute care experience is useful.
In addition to experience, it’s helpful to have certain traits and skills in order to succeed as a school nurse. For instance, school nurses don’t work with a team of medical professionals by their side. It’s important to be someone who can work well independently, multitask, and utilize good judgment. School nurses also must have good communication skills and the ability to work well with teachers, students and parents.