When people think about the school nurse they might picture one applying Band-Aids

Most people could easily describe what a nurse is, and  perhaps even describe the job of a nurse. But they may not be aware of the specialized skills and responsibilities that define the school nurse.

When people think about the school nurse they might picture one applying Band-Aids, ice packs, and taking temperatures. The practice of school nursing is a much more complex practice, in which the nurse must navigate the education system while upholding the practice standards set forth by the California State Board of Nursing.

A credentialed school nurse is allowed by state law to delegate some health care procedures to non-licensed school staff and Licensed vocational nurses. Those who work outside of the school setting are not allowed to delegate these duties.

Modern day school nurses are bachelor-degree prepared. Advanced-practice nurses not only possess a state license to practice as RNs, but also a school health services credential (15 units post baccalaureate) from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Many are additionally masters-degree educated and hold a public health credential.

Examining the Definition of a School Nurse

Administering the eye test

The school nurse is the health expert within the educational setting. Ensuring that students are ready for learning by managing complex chronic conditions such as cerebral palsy, diabetes, and epilepsy; identifying and addressing mental health issues; leveling the field on health disparities and promoting healthy behaviors;  connecting families to healthcare providers; and handling medical emergencies. The school health experts  monitor the health of students attending school with a variety of healthcare needs, providing diabetic care, insulin administration, and blood glucose monitoring.  Following additional education and certification in school audiology, they perform hearing screenings in state mandated grades as well as for students being evaluated for Individual Education Plan (IEP), 504 plan or any student that exhibits hearing concerns in the classroom.  Vision screening is also performed in state mandated grades and as needed for students with IEP, 504 or complaints of vision concerns.

They provide health and developmental assessment of students who are being evaluated for IEP or 504 plans as well as writing the report and attending the IEP/504 meeting to ensure that the students health care needs are met within the school day.  School nurses care for the entire school population, especially the most vulnerable. They champion the whole student.

They play a critical role in ensuring that schools effectively address issues related to the health and well-being of children, including impacts of COVID-19 on youth. Over the last 15 months, they have navigated through the COVID-19 pandemic by testing, tracking, and vaccinating students and school personnel. The nine credentialed nurses of DSUSD created protocols for isolation/quarantine, provided contact tracing for staff and students, provided training and guidance to school, and contracted staff on COVID 19 protocols, and continue to follow up with parents/students to answer questions and provide information on treatment options.

As the healthcare provider for the school district the school nurse is a resource to staff, providing information on a variety of healthcare issues not only for students but for staff as well.

School nurses are so much more than Band-Aids and ice packs.  But, yes, they do that, too!

Image Sources

  • School nurse: DSUSD