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How to Become a School Nurse

A school nurse's job can be a variety of roles: working in a school's health office, floating within a district, or one-on-one student care.
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The pandemic has had a lasting impact on school nurses who were faced with new responsibilities while navigating the pandemic to keep student populations protected. As schools continue to navigate ever-changing guidance for a safe return to school, nurses are more important than ever before.

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Demand for school nurses continues to grow as school districts around the country face student populations with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and mental health issues. School nurses play a vital role in many aspects of students' daily lives and even contribute to lower absenteeism and higher graduation rates.

How to Become a School Nurse

Nursing requirements are governed at the state level, so specific standards may vary from state to state. Most school systems prefer to hire nurses with a few years of experience in a clinical setting, especially with relatable pediatric expertise.

Nurses with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) can become school nurses as a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or licensed vocational nurse (LVN). The National Association of School Nurses does recommend that registered nurses (RN) have their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and pass the NCLEX-RN exam to work as a school nurse.

If certification is required for a school nurse position, it is offered through the National Board of Certification for School Nurses (NBCSN) and requires a BSN and at least 1,000 hours of clinical experience. Additionally, continuing education towards school nurse credentialing can be found through local universities that offer nursing programs.

School Nurse Job Description

Providing care to students who experience an injury or illness during the school day is one of the primary responsibilities of a school nurse, but there is much more to the position than that. School nurses help students manage chronic illness, administer medications, as well as support mental health issues. This is why pediatrics experience is especially relevant for school nurses.

Case management is a growing responsibility for school nurses. They are vital members of the educational team responsible for assessing, planning, and implementing individual health plans for students with health conditions and special needs. Nurses in school settings might also oversee the school’s health program initiatives as well as advocate for students and their families to help them get the resources and support they may need.

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Types of School Nurse Roles

A nurse's job in school settings can be a variety of roles: working in a school's health office or floating to multiple schools in a district, as well as supporting an individual student's needs or larger groups on field trips. School nursing jobs are offered in a variety of pediatric populations including primary and secondary schools. 

School Health/Clinic

  • This is the role you would most associate with a school nurse. Working in the health office and being responsible for the building’s nursing needs, such as administering medications, providing treatments, health screenings, health education, etc. 

One-on-One

  • Students with special medical needs may have a 1:1 nurse assigned to them throughout the day. Depending on the acuity, a nurse may have responsibility for more than one student.

Float/Per Diem

  • These nurses work where and as needed in various assignments throughout the district. They may be covering a regular nurse’s leave or providing coverage during special circumstances or events, such as health fairs or student field trips.

Bus/Transportation

  • Another role based on specific needs is a transportation school nurse. These nurses may be needed to ride on a school bus to and from school to monitor a student with acute medical needs.

Benefits of Becoming a School Nurse

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Nursing provides you with a rewarding career in any setting, but the added benefits of working in schools are a deciding factor for many nurses.

Work/Life Balance

One of the unavoidable challenges of nurses in many settings is the work schedule. Whether it is shift work or covering a call schedule, long and unpredictable hours are more the norm than the exception.

In a school setting, you have a standard Monday through Friday daytime schedule and you can have your summers off. The school year calendar is family-friendly, with built-in breaks in the winter and spring as well as for major holidays. School schedules make it easy to plan your vacations. Overtime and weekends are a rare occurrence, leaving you with more time for family, friends, hobbies, and travel.

Personal Connection

Unlike most clinical settings, in a school, you have an opportunity to create meaningful bonds with those under your care. As a nurse, you play a vital role in your students’ lives and get to know them and their families on a personal and social level.

The school nurse is typically the only healthcare professional in the entire school, and the one students feel most comfortable confiding in. Being in that trusted role allows you to have a meaningful impact on a student's physical and mental health.

Variety

The education system is evolving, and students' healthcare needs can become increasingly specialized. While there will always be the typical school nurse position, there is a growing need for different types of school healthcare professionals.

As described above, school nursing can place you into many specialized roles that will only continue to increase as the diverse needs of the students continue to expand. Plus, opportunities for nurses with mental and behavioral health backgrounds and special education will continue to grow to keep up with demand.

Personal Growth

Choosing a career as a school healthcare professional lends itself to your personal growth and advancement. Being in schools can provide the motivation and opportunity to pursue continuing education.

Having a predictable schedule allows you to take additional coursework and achieve certifications that you may not be able to in other care settings. The variety of clinical work and specialization you can discover in schools can also open doors in your career.

School Setting Challenges

The overwhelming benefits of being a school nurse are not without challenges as well. School nurses now have a more prominent responsibility to be the health resource expert of the entire school community. Parents, teachers, and administrators have looked to their school nursing staff to develop, implement, and maintain evolving health safety protocols for the pandemic and any future response that may be necessary.

Another “post-pandemic” challenge is the rise in anxiety and mental health issues that have worsened due to the stress and uncertainty faced by the children over the past few years. As restrictions and mandates are relaxed, school nurses will still play a critical role in educating students and parents on safety and prevention like masking, testing, and immunizations.

School Nursing Jobs with SHC

There are many opportunities and high demand for school nurses across the country. Although there will always be a need for general school nurses, one-on-one care and other specialized school nursing jobs are growing as well.

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Supplemental Health Care has a team of dedicated school setting experts who can help you find the right opportunity for your career goals. From helping you get into orientation and mentorship for school nursing to SHC has a variety of assignment lengths, including year-round school nursing jobs. SHC ensures our school nurses can handle anything their students might need.

Supplemental Health Care has job opportunities in school districts throughout the country. Use our job search portal to quickly find a job opening or visit our Schools page to learn more about getting started. When you are ready to take your career to the next level, our Schools recruitment team will be ready to support you.

 

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