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School nurses are a forgotten but vitally important member of any school’s staff. They are a first line of defense against epidemics within schools. School nurses do this by detecting, reporting and monitoring illness among students. School nurses in Massachusetts administer medication to students with chronic conditions, examine and treat sick children, counsel children and parents about illness and health-related issues, and assist the state of Massachusetts in implementing any health initiatives aimed at children. School nurses in Massachusetts must be highly qualified and meet certain parameters.
All school nurses in Massachusetts must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in nursing and hold a valid Massachusetts RN (registered nurse) license. All those interested in becoming a school nurse need to work as a licensed RN for at least two years before they can pursue the additional licensing the state requires to become a school nurse. This experience needs to be relevant to school nurse duties undertaken in a clinical setting. Relevant experience includes working in child health or community health setting.
Massachusetts considers school nurses to be professional support personnel. All staff working in a Massachusetts school must have a professional support personnel license. The requirements vary according to the job role. School nurses who are RNs with the proper clinical experience are eligible for their initial license, which qualifies them to work in a Massachusetts school as a nurse. All candidates have to complete an orientation program that covers the state health department’s school health services requirements. Candidates also need to pass a test on communication and literacy skills. This initial license is good for five years and is subject to a one-time extension good for an additional five years.
The state expects all school nurses who have worked as a Massachusetts school nurse for at least three years to qualify for and receive their professional license. In addition to possessing an initial license, school nurses must have achieved one of two additional qualifications in their field to be eligible for their professional license. One qualification is a valid national certification or license in school or community nursing, or licensure as a nurse practitioner specializing in pediatric, family or school nursing care. This certification or licensure must come from a nationally recognized professional association. The other option is the completion of a master’s degree in public health, nursing, health education or community nursing.
The professional license for school nurses is valid for five years and is renewable. The state requires all school nurses to take continuing education classes to be eligible for license renewal, in addition to completing an Individual Professional Development Plan, or IPDP, as part of their license renewal process. This plan is a written statement of their professional development goals and how those goals relate to the goals of their school district and the state. School nurses must also complete 150 Professional Development Points, or PPDs. One PPD is equal to one clock hour of instruction, with no more than 10 hours permitted for one class or course. Each CE class must have a corresponding test that demonstrates knowledge of the class subject matter.