School Nurse

What Is a School Nurse?

School nursing can be defined as a specialized practice of public health nursing which seeks to protect and promote student health, foster normal development, and advance academic success. More specifically, a school nurse is a nursing professional who works with students in an educational setting. When a student is sick or injured during the school day, the first person they'll typically go to see for a health assessment is the school nurse. Administering medication to students with ongoing health issues like seizure disorders or juvenile diabetes, stabilizing students until emergency services arrive in the case of a serious injury, and implementing care plans for students with emotional or physical disabilities are all responsibilities of the school nurse.

What Are Some School Nurse Duties?

Tasks and duties that are commonly performed by school nurses include:

  • Glucose monitoring for students with juvenile diabetes
  • Carry out hearing and vision screenings as well as other routine health checks
  • Administer medications
  • Administer wound care to injured students
  • Develop and implement strategies to prevent alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drug use by students
  • Provide resources to students
  • Teach self-care techniques to students with chronic disorders
  • Work alongside school faculty to develop a health education curriculum
  • Assess and treat students with mental health issues
  • Maintain student health records
  • Oversee school infection control standards
  • Assist the families of students to obtain outside healthcare and health insurance in some cases
  • Respond to health emergencies - performing CPR or other life-saving measures if needed - until emergency services arrive
  • Educate students on methods that can be used to prevent pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases
  • Make sure vaccinations are current and compliant with the school district and state standards
  • Assist with free and reduced lunch programs
  • Participate in the educational team which creates and implements an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for students with learning issues

Where Do School Nurses Work?

While academic settings are the most common workplaces for school nurses, they are occasionally employed in other areas. Typical environments include:

  • Public school systems (elementary schools, middle/junior high schools, and high schools)
  • Colleges
  • Universities
  • Pre-schools
  • Private/charter/parochial schools
  • Internationally based schools
  • Alternative schools
  • Summer camps
  • S. Department of Health
  • Vocational schools
  • Overseas military bases

How to Become a School Nurse

Aspiring school nurses will need to obtain a nursing education, become licensed, and gain some experience as a working RN. An interest in children and education is also a big part of this role. Although it's not explicitly required, many school nurses these days will possess a Master's in Science of Nursing (MSN) or a Master's in Education.

Step 1: Educational Requirements

The following are the educational requirements that must be fulfilled before one is eligible for employment as a school nurse:

  • Hold an ADN degree, BSN degree, and/or bachelor's degree in a health-related field relevant to school nursing from an accredited university or college
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN examination
  • Obtain an RN license
  • Pass the School Nurse Certification Exam

Do School Nurse Need an RN Degree?

Yes, school nurses must possess active and unencumbered RN licenses. In addition to being an RN, school nurses should have a number of years of clinical experience and must be certified by the National Board for Certification of School Nurses.

Step 2: Required School Nurse Certifications/Credentials

The Nationally Certified School Nurse credential can be attained through the National Board of Certification for School Nurses (NBCSN). To be eligible for to sit for the certification examination, candidates will need to have met the following requirements:

  • Have no less than 1,000 hours of clinical experience in the previous 3 days
  • Hold an active and unencumbered RN license
  • Hold a BSN degree or higher, OR
  • Hold a bachelor's degree in a health-related field which is relevant to school nursing, with at least 6 total units in the following subjects
    • Health assessment of children and/or adolescents
    • Public health/epidemiology/community health
    • Management of primary health care problems among children and/or adolescents

Certifications must be renewed every five years. Recertifications are based solely on clinical practice hours. In order to be eligible for recertification individuals must maintain an active and unencumbered RN license and have at least 2,000 hours of clinical practice in the previous 5 years. Of the 2,000 hours, 750 of those hours must have occurred in the previous 3 years.

School Nurse Jobs, Salary & Employment

Future demand for school nurses is difficult to predict. With demand for traditional nurses expected to rise substantially over the coming years, it's quite possible that the need for school nurses will also grow. However, it's also possible that school nurses will not see the same kind of growth that other nursing specialties are expected to see in the coming years due to increased budget cuts within the public school system. The good news is that every school needs at least one school nurse, so those who are unable to secure employment in their immediate district can always seek out positions in neighboring districts.

Job Description & Information

  • Essential Skills Needed - Ability to work well with children/adolescents/young adults, compassion, patience, excellent interpersonal communication skills, strong organizational skills, empathy, emotional intelligence, and dependability
  • Job Outlook -The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated that job opportunities for RNs will increase by at least 16% between the years 2014 and 2024. School nurses, however, are at the mercy of school district budgets, and these will vary based on location.

What Is the Average Salary of a School Nurse?

According to PayScale, the average annual salary for school nurses sits at approximately $47,660. The exact amount a school nurse gets paid will depend on factors like the amount of nursing experience they have, their educational credentials and certifications, the school district who employs them, and the geographical location of their employment. Employment benefit packages will too depend upon similar factors. Although benefits will vary from institution to institution, the vast majority of school nurses can expect health, vision, and dental insurance, and sometimes summers off.

How Much Do School Nurses Make per Year?

  • $30,000 – $66,000 annually

How Much Do School Nurses Make per Hour?

  • $21.11 average hourly wage

School Nurse Resources