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Become a School Nurse

By Candice Mancini
Published on December 18, 2009.

Job Duties

School nurses provide medical care to K-12 students and improve the overall health and well being of educational environments. They work in schools and in school-based clinics. Their duties are diverse, and include:

  • Emergency care
  • Counseling
  • Health education
  • Community and public relations

In addition, school nurses run immunization clinics and may be responsible for the care of students with serious medical conditions such as epilepsy.

School nurses also educate students and staff about illnesses, diseases, and current medical or psychological concerns. For instance, they might communicate with their schools about H1N1, childhood obesity, prescription drug abuse, or fads like sexting.

Job Skills

School nurses should be excellent communicators and must be able to think on their feet. They should be nurturing and enjoy working with children and teens. Especially for school nurses working with high school students, a non-judgmental, open attitude is important to help guide students through the sometimes difficult high school years.

Income

When taking into account number of work hours and work schedules, school nurses' salaries are comparable to salaries of other registered nurses (RNs). According to a number of sources, salaries for school nurses typically ranged from $30,000 to $40,000 for school nurses, compared with a median annual salary of $62,450 for all registered nurses according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

School nurses typically enjoy summers off, as well as all the school holidays. Including educational days and staff training, school nurses work around 187 days per year. Some school nurses hold second jobs in the summer months to supplement their income. Salaries for school nurses can vary depending on the budget of the school district in which they are employed.

Training and Education

School nurses must be licensed Registered Nurses (RNs). There are three routes one can take to become an RN: earning a bachelor's of science in nursing (BSN); earning an associate's degree in nursing (ADN); or completing a diploma program through a hospital.

In addition, to become licensed one must pass the NCLEX-RN, a national licensing examination. School nurses can also pursue certification through the National Board for Certification of School Nurses (NBCSN), which requires the passing of an examination tailored to the job of the school nurse. Although voluntary, earning the NBCSN certification could enhance a school nurse's career prospects.

Most school nurses are also required by their school districts to pass a criminal history record check, like other school employees.

Employment

According to the National Education Association (NEA), there were approximately 50,000 school nurses working in America's K-12 schools in 2009. The NEA and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) support increasing this number significantly. The CDCP recommends that schools have 1 nurse per 750 students. In 2009, only 41 percent of schools met these criteria, and some school districts had nearly 5,000 students per one nurse.

School nurses represent just a fraction of the total number of RNs in the country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were over 2.5 million registered nurses in 2008, with a projected employment of 3,092,000 by 2016.

Job Outlook

Job prospects for registered nurses, overall, are anticipated to be excellent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 23 percent growth in job opportunities for RNs between 2006 and 2016, some of which should undoubtedly carry over into school nurse jobs. This should be especially true if federal, state, and local governments take the recommendations of the CDCP and the NEA to significantly increase the numbers of school nurses.

Still, competition for school nurse jobs is expected to be higher than other jobs for RNs. This is largely because there are far fewer school nurses than nurses working in other venues. Also, school nurses enjoy regular workday hours, school holidays, and summers off, which makes the job attractive to many candidates.

About the Author
Candice Mancini is a freelance writer and a teacher of AP English literature and college writing. She has an M.A. in Education and a B.A. in English and history.
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