How to Become a School Nurse
Being a school nurse is a rewarding yet difficult job. They take care of students who feel sick or injured and provide emotional support to students, parents, teachers, and other members of the school community. School nurses also make sure children and staff are educated on good hygiene practices and that staff know how to use emergency equipment like CPR masks.
According to Salary.com, the median annual wage for school nurses was $51,626 per year as of May 2021. If you’re interested in caring for the health of students in an educational environment, being a school nurse may be the career for you.
There are some things you should consider before making the decision to become a school nurse, though. First, be aware that as a school nurse, you’ll be playing the role of both a nurse and an educator. You will need to care for students and make sure they’re healthy, while also educating them about their health. Second, be prepared to have a change in your work environment. Though you’ll most often be in an office, that’s not the only place you’ll be needed. You may need to assist a student on the playground, in the cafeteria, or directly in a classroom. Last, the job can be difficult. Not only might you need to answer difficult questions from students, but you may also have to advocate for them and collaborate with other professionals in cases of abuse.
What Is It Like Being a School Nurse?
If you are interested in becoming a school nurse, you might be wondering what a typical day is like. What are the pros and cons of this job? Check out the lists below to see how this career matches your interests.
- Pros of working as a school nurse.
Working hours. As a school nurse, you’re schedule lines up with the school day and school year. You work a set number of hours, five days a week, and what’s even better is you have the summer off.
Employee benefits. Many school nurses work under the same guidelines as teachers and have many employee benefits, including sick time, vacation time, and even a retirement plan.
- Less stressful. Usually, being a school nurse is less physically demanding than working as a nurse in a hospital or doctor’s office. It also might be slower paced and quieter.
You can work independently. Depending on the size of the school, you might work alone a lot of the time. This means you can set up your workstation and run your office the way you choose.
Positively impact others. School nurses play a significant role in the lives of students. They educate children on many health-related issues. School nurses help students learn about their health, their bodies, and how to live a safe and beneficial life.
- Cons of working as a school nurse.
Working independently. Just as working independently can be a positive, it can also be a negative. Working alone means you don’t have support from a team of other health care professionals, and you must face the workload by yourself.
Challenges with parents and teachers. School nurses sometimes have a hard time getting parents to understand their children’s health issues and sometimes parents might react negatively to treatment given or not given to the student. Other times, teachers might try to tell you how to do your job in ways they think makes more sense.
Lower annual salary. School nurses make around $51,000 per year, which is lower than the annual salary of about $77,000 for a hospital staff nurse, according to the BLS. School nurses are still required to meet the same educational requirements as other nurses, though.
Significant paperwork. School nurses must follow a school district’s policies and procedures and so oftentimes have a lot of paperwork to complete. This includes health forms, following up with parents for updated records, filling out immunization records, and sometimes talking with a student’s general practitioner.
School Nurse Roles and Responsibilities
School nurses are primarily in charge of ensuring the health of students, but also faculty and staff. Here are some of their typical daily duties:
- Assess injuries and illnesses and take appropriate action
- Maintain student health records
- Administer first aid and wound care
- Assist families with obtaining outside health care and health insurance
- Educate staff, students, and parents on health-related issues, such as sexual education
- Administer medications
- Oversee yearly vision, hearing, and mental health screenings
- Communicate with parents and guardians about a student’s health issues
- Teach selfcare practices
- Work with teachers to create the health education curriculum
- Maintain records and files, and submit required documents to the state
What Skills Do You Need to Become a School Nurse?
To become a successful school nurse, you should possess the following skills and traits:
- Good communication skills
- Computer skills
- Organizational skills
- Familiarity with research methods
- Knowledgeable about health-related topics
- Prepared to be an advocate for students
What You Need to Do to Become a School Nurse
To become a school nurse, there are certain steps and requirements you must take and meet. Let’s take a look at them.
First, you must become a registered nurse by earning an associate degree in nursing and passing the NCLEX-RN. Second, you need to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Third, you must gain the appropriate amount of experience. Usually, becoming a school nurse takes about five years, which includes earning the appropriate degree and gaining one to two years of nursing experience. Last, you must pass the School Nurse Certification Exam.
Degree Needed to Become a School Nurse
As mentioned, school nurses need to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing to gain employment. Excelsior University’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing program helps you build on your prior learning and gain knowledge that will prepare you for graduate study. The general education requirements ensure the student develops college-level competence in arts and sciences areas including humanities, social science/history, and natural sciences/math. The nursing component focuses on knowledge and professional competencies expected of graduates of bachelor’s programs. It requires outstanding critical thinking skills and nursing judgment as well as commitment to academic rigor.
Additional Certifications or State Requirements for School Nurses
To be qualified as a school nurse, it is important you pass the School Nurse Certification Exam, offered by the National Board for Certification of School Nurses. It is a multiple-choice exam designed to measure a nurse’s knowledge of issues and topics related to school nursing, including nurse management, health problems, special health issues, and professional issues. Test takers are given four hours to complete the exam.
Does becoming a school nurse match your goals? Consider pursuing a bachelor’s in nursing from Excelsior to get started on your career path.