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What Is It Like Being a School Nurse?

By Emily O'Brien On Sep 2, 2022
What is it like being a school nurse

A school nurse plays a pivotal role in the health of children, adolescents, and young adults, and they’re often the first person to provide care when an accident occurs on school property. This specialized practice of nursing protects and promotes student health, connecting healthcare and education to help students achieve academic success.

 

School nurses act as advocates for quality student-centered care and work in tandem with individuals and communities by developing systems to allow students to mature to the best of their abilities. They may work in a variety of settings such as public, private, or alternative schools, U.S. military bases, or summer camps. Most work during standard Monday-through-Friday business hours, unless they are in a boarding school environment, where they’d have varied shifts and different holiday schedules.

 

School nurses help students and their families in numerous ways. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 40 percent of school-aged children and adolescents have at least one chronic health condition such as food allergies, diabetes, asthma, obesity, or behavioral/learning problems. School nurses might be the first to identify these chronic health conditions in students and then help manage them. They prepare school accident reports, work to prevent and control communicable diseases within the school, and encourage parents to provide routine dental checkups and annual wellness visits.

 

Striving to advance the wellbeing of students and staff within a school environment, these nurses help promote safety by handling daily health issues that come up during a school day. Nurses also communicate with teachers and staff, ensuring the well-being and safety of students. They may evaluate students for special services, administer vision, hearing, and health screenings, and train children and staff on asthma, diabetes, and anaphylaxis treatments. School nurses administer medications, provide case management, and care for students with chronic or acute health conditions. They make sure students are equipped with the right resources to treat their medical conditions if necessary and provide faculty and staff with first-aid training and supplies.

 

School nurses look to existing resources to provide appropriate healthcare to students and staff in need. They may assess the status of student and staff immunization documentation, offer ongoing health counseling, fill out medical paperwork, and provide referrals for intervention and remediation of concerning health conditions as they arise. Nurses can play a pivotable role in determining nutrition for school meals and promoting physical fitness during recess and lunch breaks. They may also create, plan, and implement school management protocols and procedures for emergencies.

 

To work as a school nurse, a bachelor’s degree in nursing or another health-related field is needed, as well as completion of the NCLEX-RN. Gaining accreditation through the National Board for Certification of School Nurses and being an active member of the National Association of School Nurses will help improve the employment prospects of a nurse in that field. Employers also look for nurses with excellent bedside manners and solid interpersonal and communication skills. Those who pay strong attention to detail also excel in this role.

 

Above and Beyond

School nurses may also play important leadership roles in their schools, developing policies, comprehensive health programs, and procedures to make sure individuals have access to basic healthcare. They might educate and encourage self-empowerment and effective problem solving, teaching students how to make healthy life decisions and how to best manage his or her health conditions.

 

School nurses also act as the first line of defense for students, reporting any suspected abuse or parental neglect, and noticing when students with ongoing health needs are not receiving the medical treatments they need at home. Collaborating with teachers, parents, and staff is a crucial component of the role.

 

Role of School Nurses in Bully Intervention

Nurses can detect cases of bullying based on symptoms and intervene to help prevent future issues. Training staff to assist in bullying incidents, resolving conflict, and providing immediate care to students in need may also be top of the list. School nurses can also supervise high-risk areas, collect data on bullying incidents, and create policies on reporting and response. They can also take initiative to develop a multi-tiered prevention approach when addressing school violence.

 

Challenges of Being a School Nurse

One of the most frequently reported challenges associated with school nursing includes the limited resources available, as schools rely heavily on school budgets and high caseloads. They may also work in isolation, depending on the facility. Additional barriers are communication challenges among administration and parents, and conflicting needs and points of view, as healthcare is not the primary objective in an academic environment.

 

A Broader View

Rooted in community and public health, school nurses first focus on the individual’s health needs and then the broader needs of the neighborhood. Promoting healthy living and teaching disease prevention are both important elements of the nursing role. For example, working to prevent substance abuse in the community and encouraging students, staff, and their families to receive important immunizations and maintain healthy lifestyles are important elements of the role. School nurses advocate for patient physical and mental health, identify developmental milestones, and champion things like preventative self-care and risk-reducing behaviors. Nurses encourage health equity as well, connecting students and families to financial resources when need be.

 

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