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What Does a School Nurse Do?

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Busy Days Treating Illness, Injury and Providing Health Education

If you think of the school nurse as someone who treats playground cuts and scrapes, you're only partly right. School nurses have many duties as part of the team of educators and administrators who work to make the school environment healthy and safe for students. As a group, they report a high level of job satisfaction. One reason might be the schedule: they have the same hours as their school-age children, enabling them to find a good balance between work and family life.

Job Description

School nurses have a variety of responsibilities, depending on the the state and the type of school in which they practice. School nurses oversee the health and well-being of students from preschool through high school, providing much more than first aid and the monitoring of children who feel unwell. Nurses monitor chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma and food allergies, administering prescribed medications as necessary. They may help develop and manage Individual Education Programs (IEPs) if a child has medical needs that impact learning. School nurses play a role in educating students about disease prevention. They serve as advocates for children and may make recommendations for intervention by social service agencies. In the event of an emergency, the school nurse is responsible for stabilizing a patient before the arrival of emergency services.

Education Requirements

To be a school nurse, you need to have, at minimum, a degree from an accredited Registered Nurse (R.N.) program. Most school districts prefer that you hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or B.S.N. In addition, you must have a current state license and be certified by the National Association of School Nurses (NASN).

Most states require nurses to earn continuing education credits in order to maintain a license. Qualifying hours are offered through nursing schools and professional organizations.

About the Industry

School nurses work in public and private schools, alternative schools (including those for students with special needs), vocational schools, juvenile correctional facilities and summer camps. Nurses are also needed at schools for service members' children on overseas military bases. Because of budget cuts, some school nurses travel between schools within a district. Whether they serve students on one campus or several, the workday of a school nurse coincides with regular school hours, typically 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with days off for summer and school holidays.

Years of Experience

On average, a school nurse makes between $38,447 and $60,740 per year, depending on location and a variety of other factors. As with nurses who work in other settings, salaries are higher for those with a bachelor's degree in nursing instead of an associate degree leading to the R.N. Based on years of experience, here are some typical salary ranges:

  • Less than 1 year of experience: $42,632 to $48,114
  • 3 years of experience and up: $48,114 to $55,275

Some school nurses work part time. The median hourly wage for a school nurse is $23, meaning that half in the profession earn more and half earn less.

Job Outlook

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides no information on school nurses specifically, it anticipates job growth for all registered nurses will be about 15 percent over the next few years, which is much faster than average compared to all other occupations. Population increases, along with greater public awareness of childhood issues such as food allergies and nutrition, are likely responsible for the trend.