School nurses are registered nurses who specialize in caring for children of all ages in a school setting. They play a vital role in keeping school-age children healthy and safe while away from home and in the school’s care. Since the first school nurse came on duty in 1902, their primary duties have been treating students who become sick or injured during the school day and communicable disease management. While this remains true today, the role of school nurses has evolved to keep pace with medical advances and emerging health concerns.
What does a school nurse do?
School nurses provide healthcare services in an academic setting, which includes administering medical care to students, and occasionally school staff, who get hurt or become ill during school hours or after-school events. They assess students’ needs and determine whether they can be treated on-site or require a higher level of care. School nurses also strive to prevent injuries and illnesses and promote the health and wellness of students and faculty alike. Other duties might include:
- Administering medication and wound care
- Contacting parents or emergency services
- Responding to health emergencies
- Performing CPR or other life-saving techniques
- Conducting annual vision, hearing, scoliosis, health, mental health, and athletic screenings
- Assessing students with mental health issues
- Assisting families with obtaining health insurance and outside healthcare
- Overseeing schools’ infection control standards
- Managing communicable diseases and working with the Department of Health
- Ensuring vaccinations are current and compliant with state and school district requirements
- Maintaining student health records
- Teaching health education classes in private and group settings
- Encouraging students to maintain healthy habits
- Training staff to perform emergency first aid and CPR
The duties of modern school nurses have become extremely diverse. They perform a unique role in ensuring health services for children with special needs, including those with chronic illnesses and disabilities of varying severity. They may provide interventions for communicable diseases, mental health, adolescent pregnancy, obesity, eating disorders, and substance use and abuse. As a healthcare educator, a school nurse also may provide health education on more contemporary topics, including sexually transmitted infection awareness and prevention, teen pregnancy prevention, parenting, bullying, school violence, smoking cessation, and substance use and abuse.
Where do school nurses work?
School nurses primarily work in educational institutions, but there are many different types of schools. They may work in public school systems, including pre-k, elementary, middle, junior high, and high schools. School nurses may work at a single school or travel amongst several schools within the same district. Private, parochial, charter, and alternative schools also employ school nurses. They may also work at colleges, universities, and vocational schools with campus health programs, or work at juvenile correction facilities, departments of health, summer camps, and overseas military bases.
What skills make a good school nurse?
School nurses must possess compassion and a healthy dose of patience to work with children and adolescents of all ages. Because no two days are the same, they have well-rounded clinical skills and are adaptable, quick thinkers with great judgements. School nurses also have extensive knowledge of developmental stages to provide age-appropriate care. Being comfortable resolving conflicts is a unique and important part of their skill set.
Good school nurses have excellent presentation and teaching skills to provide informative healthcare education. Strong communication, listening, and interpersonal skills are a must to establish a rapport with students and staff and instruct them on various health issues and treatments. They possess strong organizational skills to manage cumbersome caseloads and administrative paperwork requirements. Above average computer skills allow them to chart and track a multitude of immunization and student health records.
School nurse salary
The salary for school nurses greatly varies by work location with some school districts providing a salary, while others pay an hourly rate. According to PayScale, school nurses earn an average salary of $48,302, which breaks down to about $929 weekly and $23.23 hourly.
In comparison, estimated pay packages for travel school nurse jobs currently listed on NurseFly average out to $1,392 per week. These earnings include taxable pay and non-taxable stipends, such as housing and meal allowances. Tax-free stipends are available to travel nurses who claim a permanent tax-home, otherwise travel school nurses are paid a fully taxable hourly wage or salary.
How to Become a Travel School Nurse
Becoming a travel nurse always begins with education. Some states allow schools to employ RNs with associate degrees as school nurses, but a Bachelor of Science in Nursing is the minimum requirement for most educational institutions, and some require a master’s degree in nursing or education. Nursing program graduates become RNs after passing the NCLEX-RN and completing state licensing requirements. Advanced certification varies by state and some schools also require certification in school nursing either prior to applying or once hired. The National Board for Certification of School Nurses offers National Certified School Nurse credentialing. Most schools prefer nurses with several years of clinical experience and may even require previous school nursing experience.