School nurses work in various academic settings, providing primary care to children. Their duties range across a wide spectrum and may include emergency care, illness prevention, health counseling, community and public relations, vision and hearing screening, and health education. They may be responsible for the care of students with advanced medical conditions, providing them with tracheostomy care or tube feeding. They work in either school-based clinics or school campuses. School nurses strive to increase the well-being, success, and achievement of the students they care for. They help encourage positive mental and physical development, health safety, and learning.
School nurses need to have well-developed communication skills, and the ability to observe accurately and make decisions accordingly. They must be able to work with patients who are sometimes reluctant to cooperate. They must be willing to work with a team, as well as supervise others. Due to the intense nature of the work, school nurses should be emotionally stable and have a sympathetic disposition.
In 2002, school nurses earned a median annual salary of $48,090. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10 percent, who earned less than $33,970, and the highest 10 percent, who earned more than $69,670.
Training and Education
School nurses must first become registered nurses (RNs) by earning their nursing license. In order to obtain a nursing license, which is required by all 50 States and the District of Columbia, students must graduate from an approved nursing program and pass a national licensing examination. Candidates have three different options for educational paths leading to certification as a registered nurse. The first option is obtaining a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing (BSN). BSN programs are offered through colleges and universities and take 4 years to complete,. The second option is an associate degree in nursing (ADN), offered through junior and community colleges, which takes 2 to 3 years to complete. The third option is a 3-year diploma program administered by hospitals.
All three types of programs qualify students to be hired as a registered nurse, but BSNs provide graduates with the most opportunity for advancement within the nursing profession. In fact many nurses certified through ADN or diploma programs go on to enter bachelor’s programs. Public health nurses can become certified by the National Association of School Nurses (NASN), which is affiliated with the National Board for Certification of School Nurses (NBSCN). In order to become certified, school nurses need to pass the NBSCN national school nurse certification examination. Click here to see a list of schools offering School Nursing Certification Programs and to contact their admissions departments for more information.
In 2002, registered nurses, including school nurses, held approximately 2.3 million jobs, making the occupation the largest in the healthcare field.
Between 2002 and 2012, the number of school nurses is expected to increase faster than the average. More new RN jobs are expected to be created than any other occupation, mostly because of the need to replace aging registered nurses as they leave the profession. Factors such as the growing elderly population, general growth of healthcare, rising median age of registered nurses, increased emphasis on preventative treatment, and technological advances will keep registered nurses, including school nurses, in high demand.