There are many nursing careers out there, but we’d argue that providing school health services is one of the most special. Why? It bridges clinical practice and public health for our kids. School nurses must not only think about their patients but also about the student population and staff.
And, as we’ll delve into below, not all school nursing is the same. After all, there are school settings for both children and adults, and each environment presents its own challenges and opportunities.
We know you’ll succeed at facing those challenges head-on and making the most of those opportunities, so read on to learn how to start your career as a school nurse.
What is a school nurse?
A school nurse is a specialist who works with children and adults to help them develop physically and mentally. They are part healthcare specialists, part education professionals.
So what does this translate to as far as everyday tasks? School nurses:
- Provide first aid
- Administer medication
- Help families understand insurance and healthcare
- Make care plans
- Promote student health and well-being
- Address community health conditions
- Work with teachers and staff to establish safety protocols
How to become a school nurse
If you’re considering this career, your first question is likely, “How many years of school to become a nurse?” We get it. We’ll address this and more below.
- Get your nursing degree: How to become a nurse after high school? There are a few routes, but you’ll need to start by earning your college-level degree in nursing no matter which path you choose. In this case, you’ll need to earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited nursing program. Many nursing jobs also accept an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) degree as a base, but the school nursing specialty does not. So the short answer to how much schooling you’ll need to become a nurse is around four years.
- Passing the NCLEX-RN: This exam is another essential step in almost all nursing-related careers. The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) will determine whether you’ve acquired enough knowledge to become a registered nurse (RN) and practice in the field.
- Seek licensure: Each state has different RN license requirements, so read up on local ones. But becoming licensed is a must before you can practice as a school nurse.
- Get clinical experience: You’ll likely need to show several years of clinical experience before you can start working for a school, and that’s a good thing. Think of this as an important step in your education, in which you’re not just waiting to get a great job but furthering the skills that will make you great at that job.
- Complete your education: Depending on where you live, your state may require you to further your education and earn a Master in Science of Nursing or a Master in Education. Certain states may also require other specific certifications and credentials, so be sure to read up on the requirements where you live.
After you complete all your schooling and begin working, what kind of salary can you expect? Currently, in the United States, the average annual school nurse salary is $40,000-$70,000.
What skills do you need to become a school nurse?
Specialized roles require specialized skills. As a school nurse, you’ll need to hone your natural talents and clinical experience to succeed at the following:
- Attention to detail
- Empathy/caring manner
- Strong communication skills
- Ability to think quickly
- Great interpersonal skills
- Ability to make good decisions and solve problems
- Interest in furthering your learning
Where does a school nurse work?
As you may imagine, school nurses work in schools. The nature of their work is different in each environment, so read on to learn about each environment to find the best fit for you.
- Daycares: Nurses in daycare centers mitigate the spread of germs and try to keep young children safe and healthy. Daycare nurses can work at just one facility or several.
- Kindergarten/elementary schools: Nurses in these environments administer first aid and medications, help students treat and recover from illnesses and injuries and serve the community. Parents and staff members come to these nurses for information and health education resources, so school nurses in elementary settings must have teaching and leadership skills. These nurses will also train staff to work with students who have disabilities or chronic conditions like asthma or diabetes.
- High schools: The work of a high-school nurse is similar to that of the elementary role, but working with older students presents different challenges. Nurses working in a high-school environment will also have to identify mental health issues and help students develop character. These nurses will also address issues like drug and alcohol use, promote good hygiene and sexual health and offer students a line of support around these topics.
- Colleges: College and university campus nurses work with young adults to promote better health in this vast educational environment. This entails giving lectures, holding events and creating health care policy and standards. Campus nurses run screenings, provide medical care and tackle tough topics university communities face like nutrition, safe sexuality, sleep, alcohol and drug use, and general wellness. College nurses are also responsible for helping mitigate the spread of disease among a large population that lives in close quarters.
Whether in nursing school or a nurse in a school, we’re here to support you and hook you up with all the gear and accessories you need to have as comfortable of a day as possible at school or work (which is also school, right?).