As you probably already know, we’re currently celebrating National Nurses Week. What you may not know, however, is that today is School Nurse Day! Since 2003, the Wednesday within National Nurses Week has been celebrated nationwide in honor of the hard work that school nurses do year after year. School nurses do a lot for their students, and some of them have quite a few students to look after. In fact, while the recommended nurse-to-student ratio is 1:750, plenty of school nurses in the United States are tasked with caring for well over 1,000 students. To help get school nurses the recognition they deserve, we’d like to share some of their standard responsibilities with our readers. Here are some of the many things that school nurses do for students throughout the nation:
Perform Health Assessments and Screenings
School nurses are responsible for performing a wide range of health screenings. Students’ vision and hearing tests, for instance, are often performed by school nurses. Height, weight, and BMI measurements are also commonly performed by school nurses. Since most school nurses have hundreds, if not thousands, of students to assess and screen, it’s a wonder that they’re able to get everything done, especially since they’re also responsible for making the appropriate referrals associated with these screenings!
Care for Minor Injuries and Illnesses
Without school nurses to care for students’ minor injuries and illnesses, children would miss much more school than they should! This is why caring for and treating ill or injured students is one of the most important responsibilities that school nurses have. When students aren’t well enough to remain in school, the nurse coordinates with other staff members and parents to ensure these students receive what they need in order to get better sooner so that they can get back into the classroom.
Provide Health Education
When it comes to health-related education in schools, school nurses are often the ones tasked with providing it. The health education provided typically includes classes on subjects like basic nutrition and exercise, but school nurses’ educational responsibilities often extend far beyond that. In middle schools and high schools, for instance, school nurses are usually the ones who provide pregnant teens with information concerning the changes in their body, the ways to promote optimal health during pregnancy, and the care of a newborn baby.
Manage Students’ Chronic Conditions
Over the last couple decades, school nurses have been tasked with taking a more active role in caring for students’ chronic conditions. For example, now that diabetic students who rely on insulin are becoming more common in the United States, school nurses play a large role in keeping them healthy. Not only do school nurses ensure that students with diabetes and other chronic conditions know how to manage their health effectively, they often train school staff members to deal with potentially life-threatening emergencies like hypoglycemia. Additionally, when life-threatening emergencies do occur in the school setting, school nurses are often the first responders, and their efforts in these situations have saved students’ lives.
Identify Threats to Students’ Health
In addition to all of the responsibilities mentioned above (and many more that we can’t cover in a single post), school nurses identify threats to students’ health and take action to eliminate them. Usually, these threats include relatively minor problems like lice outbreaks and seasonal illnesses. Other times, however, these threats are more sinister. Child abuse, for instance, is often identified by school nurses first. When school nurses suspect the abuse of a child, they’re the ones who initiate the procedures in place to determine what’s going on so that the appropriate interventions can be made.
Become a School Nurse
Now that you know a little more about the responsibilities of school nurses, would you consider working as one? In many parts of the country, there’s a chronic school-nurse shortage that desperately needs to be resolved. If you think you’d like working as a school nurse, you really should consider giving it a shot! Requirements for becoming a school nurse vary from state to state, but this page on the website for the National Association of School Nurses gives an excellent overview as well as links to affiliate organizations in 48 states.
To all of you school nurses out there, thank you for everything that you do! If you’d like to share a bit more about what you do in your specialty, please do so by leaving a comment for us and our readers in the section below!