Nurses have been a fixture in schools since the 1800’s. They initially began working in schools to monitor the spread of communicable diseases. Now school nurses are responsible for administering vaccines, helping disabled and special education students, treating sick children, and supervising school health programs.
Many schools nurses are trained in psychiatric and pediatric care since more is now being done to assist children with behavioral disorders. Since the 70’s, more federal money has been allocated to schools to hire more nurses and make public schools more accessible for children with physical disabilities and other special needs.
Federal law currently mandates that children attending public schools have access to competent nurses. All public schools must have nurses on staff to assist children with special medical needs, including students with catheters, gastrostomy feeding tubes, and tracheostomy tubes.
The Role of a School Nurse
School nurses contribute to creating an environment where children can learn by supervising initiatives intended for the health and well-being of students, teachers, and administrators. Nurses oversee the following health programs:
School nurses consult with school district administrators to improve student health throughout the district. School nurses often develop Individualized Education Plans for children with special health needs, especially students requiring catheters, tracheostomy tubes, wheelchairs, and gastrostomy feeding tubes. School nurses also counsel children with learning disabilities, administer medications to children, identify suicidal students, and organize educational workshops about the health hazards of using alcohol and tobacco, avoiding teen pregnancy, and the dangers of bullying. School nurses often recommend health and safety topics to be addressed by teachers in class.
- Health Services – Programs designed for students with health problems that impede learning
- Health Education – Programs designed to teach children about nutrition, safety, and good health practices
- Healthy Environment – Programs intended to locate health and safety hazards within schools and eliminate them
- Nutritional Services – Nutrition programs intended to supply children with healthy school lunches
- Physical Education/Activity – Fitness programs to ensure children enjoy recreation and get exercise at school
- Counseling – Programs intended to identify children with mental health problems and provide them with resources to combat them
- Parent/Community Involvement – Programs intended to involve parents, district administrators, and community members in school health initiatives
- Staff Wellness – Programs intended to improve the health of teachers, administrators, and other school employees
Many school nurses specialize in learning disabilities, adolescent health problems, teen suicide, eating disorders, teen pregnancy, and drug and alcohol abuse. School nurses are required to pass specified requirements in most states. School nurses interested in national certification must satisfy requirements established by a national school nursing agency.
School nurses work in elementary and secondary schools and on military bases located in foreign nations. They also work at the following types of schools:
- Private schools
- Parochial and charter schools
- Alternative schools
- Vocational schools
- Colleges and universities
- Day care centers and pre-schools
The National Association of School Nurses encourages students interested in school nursing to obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing and become certified with their state’s school nursing board.
Students interested in school nursing often take classes in public, mental, or pediatric health. They should work hard to improve analytical, assessment, and communication skills. School nurses must stay updated with local, state, and national laws regarding student health and student health initiatives.
School nurses are usually solely responsible for administering healthcare and overseeing health programs at their schools. To effectively do this, they must have excellent analytical, communication, decision-making, and people skills. They are often required to refer students with suicidal tendencies, learning disabilities, and other serious problems to school administrators.
Students interested in school nursing careers should earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Nurses holding graduate degrees enhance their job opportunities. The National Association of School Nurses advises schools to hire registered nurses who’ve completed bachelor degree programs.
School nurses earn anywhere from $20,000 - 70,000 a year. The average salary range for school nurses ranges from 28,000 - 49,000 annually. School nurses are typically not required to work during the summer.
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