One of the beauties of nursing is the fact that there are so many different options and opportunities in the field. If you're interested in pediatrics and find a school-style setting appealing, school nursing may just be for you. With many of the benefits of a teacher, including summers off, becoming a school nurse is definitely appealing. For this career path, the degrees necessary vary, but the rewarding outcome of the job certainly piques curiosity in many.
If the hospital or acute care setting is no longer of interest to you, school nursing may be an option worth pursuing. Once receiving the education in order to become a school nurse, excellent opportunities may be available to you. School nurses work with students, families, and the school system as a whole to promote healthy lifestyle choices and to protect the well-being of those attending the institution.
School nursing incorporates multiple aspects of the profession. Of course, direct healthcare is often given via medications, physicals, and general check-ups of those ill at school. However, school nurses also integrate areas such as health awareness, education for the students, and preventative measures in order to keep the students at their healthiest. Sex education, immunizations, smoking cessation programs, and healthy eating plans are all aspects of a school nurse’s job depending upon where he or she works. It really is a multi-faceted career which is appealing and exciting for many nurses, or future nurses, out there.
As mentioned, the path to becoming a school nurse varies between individuals. States vary when it comes to the degree necessary for a school nurse, as well. Some schools continue to employ licensed practical nurses; however, the National Association of School Nurses encourages a bachelor’s degree before going into this specific field. Either way, a school nurse needs to maintain an active license in order to work by passing the NCLEX. Further education is required in the form of a school nursing certificate. A master’s degree is also available, though this further education is not always necessary. While there is not a set limit on prior experience for becoming a school nurse, many facilities encourage at least two years of acute care work before transitioning to this role.
As with most careers in the nursing profession, continuing education is required on a yearly basis. However, the amount of hours necessary vary from state to state.
Job Description & Duties
A school nurse works in any sort of educational institution. While this may seem limiting, the opportunities certainly vary. Openings are available in both public and private elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools. Colleges and universities also employ school nurses, and many in this field decide to work in public health.
School nurses have the benefits of teachers in that they often have summers off. Night shifts are not required, on call time is rare if not nonexistent, and the level of stress is normally kept to a minimum. However, this is not to say that the difficulty in becoming a great school nurse is minimal. It is simply a different field with different expectations and surroundings.
If interested in this field, a broad knowledge is necessary. School nurses must be strong when it comes to pediatrics but must also possess skills when it comes to public health and mental health. Of course, since the work environment is that of a school, policies and procedures of that institution must be known, as well. Those with hopes to become a school nurse must also be able to work effectively with teachers, counselors, students, and their families in order for the best care possible to be given.
Job Outlook and Salary
The median annual salary for a school nurse is about $43,000 with lower and upper limits from around $34,000 to $54,000. Of course, the salary depends on the location of the school, the type of facility, the hours expected per week, etc.
Nursing, in general, is a field in which the job outlook is expected to grow faster than the average occupation. By 2020, registered nursing needs are anticipated to expand by 26%. This statistic may not be as beneficial for school nurses, however. Due to budget cuts in many schools across the country, consolidation is occurring. School nurses may risk losing their positions, but opportunities are always available in other places.
References and Further Reading
The National Association of School Nurses (NASN)