Employment as a school nurse goes well beyond checking vision, identifying lice and applying band-aids. School nurses require a skill set acquired in both acute care settings and public health settings. Entry level criteria can be different for each state, school district and school. States and school districts may require a BSN degree, but individual schools, especially private or parochial may not require a Bachelor’s degree.
The nurse may apply for employment through the school district or the county Public Health Department. Private and parochial schools are more likely to hire directly at the school level. In many areas now, nurses may cover several schools and supervise LPNs or health aides working in individual school clinics.
Education and career experience are very important for employment as a school nurse. School nurses must implement a multi-disciplinary approach including illness assessment, preventive health care, management of emergencies, health and wellness counseling, nutrition teaching, communicable disease management, sexuality education, health promotion, community and family needs assessment and intervention. As in all types of nursing, the school health nurse must also document and maintain confidential, health records.
Tips for getting a job as a school nurse blend two different and challenging worlds: nursing and education. But at the core of both worlds is an individual who loves children of all ages, who enjoys a job that is different everyday, and has very few boring moments.
Understanding the requirements of school districts such as how to write a student Individual Health Plan in language that teachers can comprehend.
Becoming involved in education. A school nurse needs to be comfortable presenting health lessons one-on-one or to a group of students, teachers, school administrators or parents. The nurse may also be asked to design health education curriculum, or present CPR classes to teachers.
Speaking the language. School nursing isn’t always about nursing care plans but educational outcomes.
Providing nursing care in multiple non-medical settings from playground to locker room, cafeteria to classroom, as well as a clinic or office. The nurse must be prepared, supplied and in charge.
Implementing strategies for wellness. Health goes beyond the absence of illness and the school nurse knows and understands her role in disease prevention. The school nurse must be proactive in promoting wellness.
Being a patient advocate and liaison. The school nurse must advocate for the needs of a child in the absence of the parents, and acts as a liaison to the medical community, educational community, child and family.
Promoting school nursing. At a time when educational budgets are strained, teachers laid off and schools in danger of closing, the school nurse may have to take a role in the political environment as an advocate for children’s health and the importance of maintaining nursing presence in schools.
Developing clinical skills. Schools have become more inclusive of children with disabilities. It is not uncommon now for school nurses to deal with children with acute, as well as long-term, medical needs, including respirators, feeding tubes, catheters, injectable medications, severe allergies, seizure disorders and diabetes.
Having psycho-social expertise. School nurses work in an environment in which children have emotional and psychiatric illnesses, street drugs are prevalent and violence an everyday possibility. The nurse must be able to recognize mental illness and intervene when necessary. The school nurse needs to be caring, compassionate and competent.
This special advertising section was written by Joyce Good Henderson, a freelance writer, in conjunction with the advertising department of The Washington Post and did not involve the news or editorial departments of this newspaper.