They’re the folks who bandage kids up when they skin their knees on the playground, the ones who call caregivers when students get sick, and the ones who occasionally give stressed-out kids a place to recharge between classes.
However, despite the amount of face time many parents and students have with school nurses, there are countless things about the profession that most of us don’t know.
From just how much school they’ve been through to who else they’re treating on the job, this is everything school nurses want you to know.
They’re likely more educated than a nurse you’d find in a hospital.
School nurses typically have credentials and experience that are, at the very least, on par with any nurse you’d find in a hospital setting or doctor’s office. “I have a bachelor’s of science in nursing degree from a four-year university, and then took my boards to receive my RN and public health nursing license,” says Jen Kohorst, a school nurse and the founder of parenting website Minnesota Momma.
According to the National Association of School Nurses (NASN), all school nurses should have a baccalaureate degree and an RN license to practice. But there’s also a good chance your local school nurse has logged even more hours in the classroom: The NASN reports that 12.5 percent of school nurses hold master’s degrees, compared to just 10.3 percent of RNs nationally.
And they continue their education long after they’ve earned their degree.
Think school nurses can rest on their laurels once they’ve completed their licensing requirements? Think again. “It is actually a requirement in my state that RNs have 24-plus hours of continuing education every two years,” says Kohorst.
“And as a school nurse, you need an additional 125 hours in five years.” In fact, there are only 11 states that don’t require RNs – including school nurses – to complete some form of continuing education after becoming licensed.
Private schools aren’t mandated to have nurses.
According to the NASN, you’re less likely to find a nurse in a private school: Just 34.6 percent of private schools employ school nurses, compared to 81.9 percent of public schools.
That’s because, according to the State Regulation of Private Schools, “there is not an explicit law or regulation requiring a private school to have a school nurse.”
They typically need consent from a kid’s doctor and parents before handing out so much as ibuprofen.
Unfortunately, if a student doesn’t have a note from a doctor and a parent saying they can receive a specific medication from the school nurse – even if it’s an OTC one – they won’t be getting it.
In fact, Kohorst says that she can’t even hand out prescription medication to the student it’s prescribed to without specific instructions, either.
Only some school nurses can administer vaccines.
If you haven’t found time to get your kid vaccinated before school starts, don’t expect that the school nurse will be able to handle it for you.
“While RNs certainly can administer vaccines, this would be…decided by each district,” says Kohorst, who notes that separate public health nurses come to schools in her district to provide vaccines.
There is a massive shortage of school nurses nationwide.
According to the National Educational Association, the school nursing shortage is so severe that, in 29 states, there are more than 1,000 students per school nurse. In Utah, the state with the greatest school nurse shortage, there’s just one school nurse for every 4,893 students.