6 Things You Should Know Before Becoming a School Nurse



School nurses play
a vital role in the education system. They are there to lend a hand during
emergencies, of course, but, on a day-to-day basis, they strive to enhance
academic performance by improving student attendance. They can also help kids
develop healthy habits that they will carry with them long after graduation.

If you are a nurse and you love working with kids, becoming a school nurse could be a great career path. The benefits of working as a school nurse are numerous, but there are still plenty of things that you should be aware of.

School Nurses Are First Responders for Acute Illnesses and
Injuries on School Grounds

Sometimes, kids
fall ill or get sick when they are at school. When that happens, the school
nurse is the first responder who is responsible for assessing the severity of
the situation and providing the appropriate intervention. They determine
whether it is necessary to send a sick or injured child home or to the
emergency department or if they can safely remain in school.

School nurses also
provide basic first aid, such as bandaging scrapes suffered in playground
accidents.

Keep in mind that,
as a school nurse, you’ll likely be exposed to childhood illnesses on a daily
basis, especially if you work in an elementary school. Things like head lice,
chickenpox, and asthma attacks are pretty much daily occurrences, so you need
to be prepared to handle such things regularly. If the thought of lice is
something that makes your skin crawl, you may want to consider a different
career path.

Preventing the Spread of Communicable Diseases Is Part of
the Job

When communicable
diseases—like colds and the flu—spread through schools, they result in numerous
absences and interfere with students’ ability to learn. As a school nurse, one
of your main responsibilities will be monitoring and preventing the spread of
illnesses.

School nurses keep
track of the complaints students make when they come into the office. They also
monitor the reasons for student absences. If there is a trend that indicates an
illness is working its way through the school, they are responsible for
implementing measures to help prevent the spread. They may also need to inform
the school district of certain illnesses are popping up more frequently than
usual so that parents can be notified and the appropriate action can be taken
to address the problem.

You will likely
assist the school district with things like promoting vaccines and educating
students on parents on simple infection control measures. In some instances,
you may also need to provide education to members of school staff and the
community.

School Nurses Help Students Manage Chronic Conditions

Every school
district is impacted by children’s health problems. Under federal law,
physically and mentally challenged students must be integrated into the general
student population. As a school nurse, it is your responsibility to help those
kids attend classes and learn.

Nurses work with
patients and students to ensure that chronic conditions are properly managed.
They administer medications and treatments during school hours and, when
necessary, help parents learn how to better care for their children outside of
school hours. School nurses also work with teachers at times to help them
better understand how to teach their special needs students.

You’ll Work as Both a Nurse and an Educator

One of the most
rewarding parts of being a school nurse is you get to educate kids on how to
care for themselves and their bodies. You will likely be placed in charge of
developing educational programs that the entire student body will benefit from.
You’ll get to help kids with difficult topics like bullying, substance abuse,
sexually transmitted diseases, and teen pregnancy.

You may also have
opportunities to work with school staff on projects like coming up with
healthier school lunches and promoting physical activity. You’ll also
coordinate health screenings and things like first aid and CPR training for
staff members.

The Working Environment Can Change

You may spend a lot of time in the nurse’s office, but that’s likely not the only place you’ll be. If a child gets hurt on the playground, you’ll need to run outside to assist. You may also be needed in the gym, in a classroom, or anywhere else on school grounds. Because the working environment can change, you need to be prepared for anything. Keep a men’s scrub jacket in your office to make sure you’re ready if you need to go outside or into a cold environment.

It’s also a good idea to invest in comfortable nursing footwear. Again, you could end up running all around the school during the day, so you need to be prepared.

The Job Can Be Uncomfortable

When you work as a
school nurse, you have to face all sorts of uncomfortable situations head-on.
If, for example, you work in a middle school or high school, you will likely
play a large role in providing sex education for students. You may have kids
come to you to ask difficult questions that they are afraid to ask their
parents or teachers, and you’ll need to provide them with factual,
age-appropriate answers.

You may also need
to advocate for the students in your care. There may be situations in which you
need to collaborate with guidance counselors and/or social workers if a student
exhibits signs of abuse or neglect. If a parent is not complying with their
child’s medical goals, you may need to contact their pediatrician. These
situations can be extremely uncomfortable, but it is your responsibility to
advocate for the students in your care and do what it takes to ensure their
health and well-being.

Being a school nurse is not an easy job, but it’s a very rewarding one. If you love working with kids and want to make a real difference in their lives, pursuing a career in school nursing could be right for you.

For more articles, visit OD Blog.

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