School nurses are a branch of community nursing. They provide care outside of a traditional hospital or healthcare setting that focuses on a specific group or location. In the case of school nurses, their attention is focused on the school or school district where they are employed. Working in the schools provides nurses with a predictable schedule and other added perks, like summers and holidays off.
In this article, we will explore:
- What does a school nurse do?
- Where do school nurses work?
- What are the steps to becoming a school nurse?
- How much does a school nurse make?
What does a school nurse do?
School nurses focus their time and talents on the students and staff at public and private schools. Pursuing a career as a school nurse allows you to support children in their learning environment. Evaluating students’ mental and physical health is one of the main priorities of a school nurse. Research has shown links between academic success and students’ overall health and well-being.
School nurses treat students experiencing an illness or injury during the school day. Some also provide continuing coverage and care for students engaged in after-school activities. Their duties go beyond treating an injury or illness. School nurses must assess the situation to determine if an advanced level of care is required. For instance, if a student comes to the nurse’s office with stomach pains and the school nurse determines it likely is the student’s appendix, emergency medical care is needed.
School nurses do more than intervene when students – or staff – are feeling ill or become injured. Here are some of the other common job duties associated with this nursing field:
- Administering prescribed medications to students in a safe environment
- Assessing and monitoring the immunization status of students and staff
- Collaborating with faculty, parents, and students on health and safety awareness programs
- Encouraging healthy mental and physical development of students
- Leading the way toward a healthy school environment
- Screening and referring students for health conditions and follow-up medical care
- Serving as a liaison among school personnel, families, and healthcare providers
There may be additional duties depending on where you work. For instance, some schools ask their school nurses to oversee and teach sex ed and development classes for students. Most employers list job duties and responsibilities in job ads. If they don’t, be sure to ask for a list of required duties during your job interview.
Where do school nurses work?
As RNs, school nurses can technically work in any setting. Options in a K-12 school environment include public and private elementary, middle, and high schools. Private and parochial schools also employ school nurses. Some colleges and universities hire nurses to run campus health programs. Other alternatives include vocational-technical schools, alternative education programs, juvenile correction facilities, and summer camps.
What are the steps to becoming a school nurse?
Education and certification standards vary by state, so it is best to check with the licensing board for the state in which you intend to work to make sure you have all your bases covered.
The first step in becoming a school nurse is to earn a minimum of a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited college, university, or nursing program. It takes three to four years to complete a BSN. If you already have your ADN, there is a bridge program that allows you to finish an ADN to BSN in 12-18 months.
Once you earn your degree, the next step is to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. You must pass the exam to earn your RN licensure.
Licensed RNs are encouraged to gain two to three years of experience before applying for jobs in a school setting. Most public and private schools prefer candidates with hands-on practice in the nursing field.
Beyond your degree, license to practice, and experience, some states also require RN certification for school nurses. The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers several certification programs for nurses. Other options include the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).
How much does a school nurse make?
According to PayScale, the average annual school nurse salary is $48,481. Top earners can make as much as $72,000. Salaries for school nurses vary because some schools can afford higher wages than others. Larger school districts and private schools may offer the best pay since they have the most financial resources at their disposal.
RNs in non-academic settings typically earn more than their school nurse counterparts. For instance, an RN in a hospital setting has a median annual salary of $75,330. Educational services in the state, local, and private sectors offer the lowest pay and benefits of all the industries where RNs can work. But most RNs choose to work in a school setting because they want to work with children and have an impact on their lives.
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The top companies currently hiring for school nurses are Santa Ana, CA, Frisco, TX, Bellevue, WA, and Durham, NC. You can find more job opportunities for school nurses on the Incredible Health Job Board.
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