Schools are often considered to be the second home for children. They spend so much time in the schools that it automatically transforms into a very influential environment during their formative years. Therefore, it becomes rather a necessity to change this environment into a healthy one. Then there are children who enter schools with mental and physical health problems. Due to all these factors, schools need more than just a pediatrician to look after the health of their students, especially the schools with a larger strength of pupils. Therefore, school nurses are assigned as the major caretakers of health and are considered essential for a highly coordinated care at school.
In every school, it is quite common to have immigrant students or those who have been dealing with an emotional crisis owing to a number of things such as family issues, violence, and abuse. Then there are also students dealing with issues such as poverty and homelessness. All of these can take a very negative toll on the mental and physical health of the students. Therefore, becomes the responsibility of the administrative bodies at school to focus on the importance of school health. A lot of health issues can be prevented through programs such as immunization, preventive services, screenings and regular health education.
Job Description Of A School Nurse
The main role of school nurse is to work towards promoting the environment of a school. Their responsibilities include ensuring safety and optimal hygiene around the school and encouraging the students to adopt healthy habits both when they are at school or outside of school. The school nurses are also responsible for identifying and deterring the various causes of health problems, both potential and actual. This is the reason why health education in nursing is given a very high weight. The school nurses work in close collaboration with the other school officials, educators, and the students as well as their families. They may also initiate case studies to ensure that the students are receiving enough attention, complying with the rules and going through a healthy and normal development.
The school nurses have very important roles in the smooth functioning of the health care services at schools. The number of students with chronic health conditions is gradually increasing and therefore requires efficient management during their time at school. The school nurses may either work alone depending on the type of school, may even have an entire team working together with them. It becomes their primary duty to offer preventive services to the students, make interventions, look out for health issues in children, and more. Without the school nurses, it gets rather difficult to coordinate the health care services for the students.
Given Below Are The Core Duties Of A School Nurse
- Offer healthcare service to the students as well as the staff
- Make referrals to other specialized healthcare providers
- Undertake health screening on a timely basis
- Develop plans for the care of students and evaluate and upgrade the existing plans
- Hold consultation with other professionals in the school concerning the health of one or more students
- Provide health education to the students as well as the staff in groups
- Monitor the activities such as immunizations
- Plan and implement effective management in case of communicable diseases such as flu, cold or red eye
- Taking effective steps towards infection control
- Taking regular measurements of the body mass index, mental health, physical health, hearing, and vision.
- Assessing the environment in and around the school so to ensure maximum safety and prevent injuries.
- Make active participation in the safety plans introduced by the school in order to address issues such as bullying, abuse, violence and a couple of other emergencies that are likely to place in schools
- Taking charge of the administration of medications, injection and all other health care procedures in the school
- Making sure that the health care standards are in accordance with those mentioned in the state legislation
- Ensuring that the services offered are of professional quality
- Offering health advice to the different educational teams in the school
- Communicating with the families of students regarding the care required outside of school and offering help with the obtaining of a health insurance.
Area Of Work
School nurses may find employment in a number of different settings including
- Private schools
- Parochial and charter schools
- Public school systems
- Public health departments
Education Requirement For A School Nurse
The school nurse qualifications may vary from one state to the other. However, it is mandatory for them to have at least a degree in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing. This is also the first step to becoming a school nurse. The BSN degree takes four years to complete and gives practical as well as classroom education to the aspiring candidates while also preparing the, for the national level examination for certification. The areas of study in the BSN program include health assessment, medical terminology, pharmacology, physiology, and anatomy.
The nurses can also continue their education and acquire a post bachelor’s degree as many employers prefer to have school nurses with a master’s degree. There are also nursing schools offering the SNSC or the School Nurse Services Credential. These courses are designed to train the nurses to offer optimal health care services while working in a school environment.
School Nurse Salary
While the nurses working in various different fields are constantly experiencing an increment in the salary and growth opportunities, it is not the same for the school nurses. In fact, the nurses working in schools usually tend to have a less than average salaries mainly owing to the increasing amount of budget cuts within the system. However, the advantage is that this area of work is not as stressful as working in hospitals and nursing homes that sometimes involve working with critically ill patients. Furthermore, the nurses working in schools tend to have healthy working hours during the days, that is during the business hours, predictable holidays and fixed leave during the weekends and holidays. All of these aspects make the profession of a school nurse highly desirable among the nurses. Since the work in schools is not as fast paced as in the hospitals, the work stress is also very low.
How Much Do School Nurses Make?
The salaries for school nurses can vary significantly depending on the location of the school, type of school, education, certification and amount of experience. It has been estimated that the school nurse average salary is $45,145 on a per year basis. Depending on the aspects, the average salary is expected to vary between $25,541 and $61,825.1 These were the figures released as of Jan 27, 2018. The data for this report was collected by a team of Certified Compensation Professionals who took the survey to hundreds and thousands of educational institutions of all sizes, all across the United States, which offered employment to nursing staff with the job title of the school nurse.
What Are The Hourly Wages For A School Nurse?
The same survey that calculates the average annual wages for the school nurses also came up with an estimate for the hourly public school nurse salary. According to this estimate, the school nurses in the United States have an average hourly wage of $20.48. This was the report released as of Jan 27, 2018. The pay scale may vary from $12.11 to $26.79 and depends on a large number of factors.2 The figures released through his survey should be reliable, mainly because the information was collected from thousands of institutions all over the United States. However, it should also be noted that the survey did not take into account factors such as short-term fluctuations in the economy, availability of nurses in a given area and other such secondary factors that tend to influence the salary. Therefore, it should not be a surprise if the different surveys show slightly different figures.
The average starting salary for school nurses in the United States is estimated to be $19,222 per year. However, with experience, the nurses can gradually start to see a positive trend in the salary. Some gap in the starting salaries can also be seen depending on the type of school the nurses are working in. For example, high school nurse average salary will always be higher than the elementary school nurse salary. Since the school nurses tend to have highly flexible working hours, they can also easily manage part-time jobs at other places and enjoy a higher income.
Salary By Experience
While the lowest starting salary for a school nurse can be as low as $19,222, the average starting salary may vary from one state to the other or from one employer to the other. School nurses with about 5 to 9 years of experience tend to have average annual earnings of about $56,725. Nurses who have been working for more than a year but less than 4 years may have their salaries anywhere in between $19,322 to $60,930. Nurses who have about 8 years of experience may have their salaries in the range of $29,644 to $56,725. As for the school nurses who have been working for more than 20 years in their respective field, the salaries can be anywhere in between $28,855 to $71,411. In addition to the annual salaries, the nurses are also apt to receive a bonus of about $500. Other monetary benefits of being on the job include paid sick leaves, paid vacations, dental insurance, medical coverage, life insurance, insurance for disability, certification reimbursement, company pension plans, and more.
Salary By Region
The salaries for a school nurse vary drastically from one part of the country to the other, especially in the Western regions. For example, in the West, school nurses in Hawaii had much lower wages as compared to those working in California. Similarly, in the Northeast, school nurses working in New York had much higher salaries as compared to those working in Maine. In the Midwest, the highest earners were from Illinois while those working in South Dakota or Nebraska had much lower salary rates.
This remarkable gap in the pay scale mainly occurs as a result of the different costs of living in the different states. For example, the highest paying states include New York, California, but these states also have a higher cost of living which compensates for the increase in salary. While considering the overall pay scale, it is also important to consider the monetary benefits like house rent compensation, tax exemption, child care assistance and more. Furthermore, the term of service may also decide the amount of compensation received by the school nurses. Usually, those with more experience are at a greater advantage.
Salaries Of School Nurses in Different States
The greatest advantage of being a school nurse is highly flexible working hours. Since they have a permanent paid leave during weekends and other seasonal school vacations, they also have an opportunity to supplement their income by taking up temporary or part-time employment in different places.
The US Bureau of Labour Statistics has estimated the employment opportunities for the registered nurses working as school nurses to grow by almost 16 percent by the year 2024. This is much faster as compared to the growth rate for all other occupations and even other areas of nursing itself. However, due to the recent review of the legislation, the schools are required to place a greater emphasis on math and reading skills, which is why funding for the health programs are likely to be cut down or removed altogether. However, the schools also have the option of cutting funds elsewhere, for other activities in order to provide the same for health care. Since, health care is indispensable, especially in schools, the schools are more likely to opt for the latter.