School Nurse

A school nurse is one of the most appreciated yet overlooked jobs in healthcare. Which is quite odd considering that there are approximately 75,000 nurses in schools across the United States addressing the health concerns of students according to The Journal of School Nurses.

In the past 15 years, more than 40 states have improved their numbers of nurses. The job that they do is diverse and vital and accounts for them being among the happiest in the healthcare profession. Every day they are called upon to assess and evaluate the health of students and make referrals to doctors and medical clinics if necessary.

A School Nurse Has Many Responsibilities

A typical day can see a school nurse check children having problems with their vision and hearing which can affect their studies drastically. Children are always having minor accidents, getting scrapes and bruises and often breaking bones when they are running around playgrounds. Nurses attends to all of these mishaps.

Other duties include administering medications and vaccines, performing healthcare procedures and providing health counseling and wellness programs. Of course, they must be able to manage chronic and acute diseases, identify and manage outbreaks of diseases among children like influenza, head lice and chicken pox and educate students, faculty staff and families about health-related issues.

The School Nurse Is Often The Only Healthcare Professional In The District

Quite often the school nurse is the only health care professional in the entire building and sometimes even the local district. So her role can never be under-estimated. Neither can the benefits. Although school nurses are not certified teachers, health education plays a big role in their daily duties.

They are often called upon to show teachers and parents how to perform certain medical tasks to how to identify and respond to certain symptoms that a student may be exhibiting. A good nurse can help students manage chronic illnesses and thereby increase attendance in classes which leads to greater academic success.

Nurses working in schools are very independent and there is a lot of room for creativity in teaching children about proper healthcare and being responsible for their own health. School nursing involves a lot more than simply putting bandages on strains and taking the temperatures of ill students.

The presence of a nurse in a school environment also takes the pressure of teachers to provide proper medical care to students so they can get on with their own responsibilities. Among the major health concerns that a school nurse will encounter in schools in the US are the fact that 32% of school children are chronically obese which can lead to diabetes.

A quarter of all schoolchildren have problems with their eyesight, 15% of students are prescribed medication for more than 90 days, 10% of children have emotional and behavioral problems, another 10% have asthma, 6% miss more than 10 days school because of illness and a great many others have food allergies, seizure disorders, ADHD and hearing problems.

Add to this the fact that 47% of 12th grade students have reported a lifetime of illicit drug abuse and 65% of 12th graders are sexually active and nurses have their jobs cut out for them.

Because of the particular healthcare problems that nurses encounter on a daily basis it is recommended that they have had experience in public health care or pediatrics.The National Association of School Nurses (NASN) recommends that school nurses have the proper training and nursing education and gain professional certification through the National Board for Certification of School Nurses (NBCSN). They also need to keep abreast of new forms of treatment and medications.

The recommended nurse-to-well child ratio in schools is 1:750. However, recent data indicates that every nurse cares for around 970 students on average in American schools. In over a dozen states the ration is over 2000 students to one nurse.

The NASN recommends a 1-to-225 ratio for schools that require daily professional school nursing services and 1-to-125 in schools with complex health care needs. The workloads for an elementary school nurse have stayed constant for the past 15 years at around 455 students per nurse. But in secondary schools, workloads have grown 14%, from 733 students per nurse to 835.

Nearly half of all public schools have a full-time nurse on staff and with the additional of part-time nurses in schools that figure jumps to 75%. However, that still means that a quarter of all schools in America have no healthcare professional at all.

In addition to working directly with students, a school nurse often takes on the role of nursing administrator. There role is to oversee a team of school nurses and advise school officials about healthcare policies and the implementation of proper medical care in schools.

Along with these duties there is also an urgent requirement for more nurses in research. School health records contain a lot of valuable information which is now more easily accessible because of the shift to electronic and digital record keeping.

There has been a call for more research on the affect that nurses have in providing a both a healthy environment and managing the health of students and the role that plays in reducing students admissions to ER departments, and also curtailing the spread of contagious diseases.

The role of a school nurse is essential to the proper healthcare of millions of students across the country. Not only in the day-to-day running of our junior and high schools but because of the effect days lost to illness and disease have on a child’s education. Keeping children fit and healthy is essential to the long-term prosperity of this country. The school nurse is on the front-line everyday.