School Nurse

Nature of Work

  • performing vision, hearing, dental, and scoliosis health screening tests;
  • providing emergency first aid
  • monitoring student compliance with state immunization laws;
  • assessing the health needs of students and faculty, and coordinating appropriate curriculum or activities for them;
  • counseling students about chronic illnesses, nutrition, disease prevention, and positive lifestyles;
  • interpreting medical data and contributing to the health component of individualized education programs (IEPs) for students with disabilities;
  • participating with the school administration in investigating cases of suspected child abuse and neglect;
  • training professionals and staff members to perform standard procedures that might be needed for students with disabilities---gastrostomy tube feeding, tracheostomy care, how to respond to a child having a seizure, how to use oxygen in the classroom or on the bus.
  • serve as liaisons to the community

Education Required

To become a registered nurse (RN) in any state, a student must graduate from an accredited nursing school and pass a national licensing examination.  Students can earn an associate degree, a diploma, or a bachelor of science degree in nursing. (Some nurses' training programs specialize even further. Millikin University in Illinois, for example, teaches courses specifically for nurses who plan to work in school settings.) RNs holding bachelor's or master's degrees have the broadest advancement opportunities. Once a degree is received, it is recommended that you continue taking professional education courses to maintain and upgrade knowledge in the rapidly changing and expanding field of school nursing.

Personal Qualities

School nurses are caring and sympathetic, and are concerned with the physical, mental, and emotional needs of their students. They have excellent listening skills and can instruct both children and adults about a variety of health issues and treatments. School nurses follow a code of ethics and deal with sensitive and/or confidential information in an appropriate manner. They are mature and trustworthy individuals, and should keep meticulous written records.

Job Outlook and Advancement

  • Employment opportunities for registered nurses are expected to grow faster than other types of employment through 2007
  • School nursing positions are growing steadily in demand, especially to work with the growing number of students with special needs

How to Prepare for a Career

Aspiring school nurses need strong academic backgrounds in science, biology, chemistry, psychology, mathematics, and communications. During high school, volunteer to work in hospitals with children, with your school nurse, or volunteer to be a professional assistant in a special education class to learn more about special needs students. Consider summer employment as a receptionist in a clinic or as a camp counselor who can assist the camp nurse working with various disabilities and needs of campers. Contact the county school nurse supervisor in your town and ask about volunteer opportunities in immunization projects, community health programs, or public health screening.

Resource Information:

  • National Association of School Nurses, Inc.
    P.O. Box 1300
    Scarborough, Maine 04070-1300
    (207)-883-2683 Fax
  • American Nurses' Association
    600 Maryland Avenue, SW
    Washington, D.C. 20024-2571
    (202) 651-7000
    (202) 651-7001 Fax