What Is A School Nurse Practitioner?
As a school nurse practitioner you will primarily work with children in a school situation dealing with their basic medical needs. The job is low intensity, medically speaking. Some school nurses are based at a specific school while others travel from school to school in a defined area. As it involves working with children, an area that appeals to the natural empathy of most nurses, it is a popular nursing specialty.
Nature Of The Work/Duties
Schools nurse practitioners are closely involved in the healthcare needs of the school which they work with. This involves creating and developing a health care plan for that school that will adequately deal with needs of students and often also the needs of educators. In addition they will be required to work closely with parents, educators and children in terms of teaching them about health issues and how to cope with them. To a certain degree a school nurse practitioner may also be required to provide counseling in cases where a student may have mental health issues, although severe cases are generally referred. You will perform basic tests on children to check their eye sight and nutrition and other basic aspects of their health.
Schools nurse practitioners are employed in schools. There are not really many other areas that these nurse practitioners could be employed in, although they may make house calls from time to time. There are two types:
- Some are based at one specific school that they go to on a daily basis. They tend to have their own office with a sick room and can be guaranteed of stability in their job.
- On the other hand you have school nurse practitioners that serve an area rather than a specific school and will travel from school to school within that area. This is less stable, but allows you to come into contact with a wider variety of different people and have a wider influence in terms of your ability to help.
To become a school nurse practitioner you need to meet a number of requirements. Firstly you need to have the correct level of education. These nurse practitioners generally need an undergraduate degree or diploma in nursing, a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN), an associate degree in nursing (ADN), or a diploma in nursing. In addition you need:
- A genuine love for and attitude of caring toward children
- A genuine love for and attitude of caring toward the nursing profession
- Many programs require you to pass a health and background check before you can enter and complete your training
Being qualified to enter a certain field of nursing extends past having the correct educational qualifications and includes, to a large degree, having the right personality for the job.
There is always a personality component involved when discussing requirements for a position. In the case of school nursing they are as follows:
- A natural ability to care for and love children and a sense that you have been called to help them is essential.
- Sympathy, especially towards children and their emotional and physical needs, is also required.
- Children are not naturally trusting of health care professionals, so an ability to come across as someone who can be trusted and who has the best interests of the child at heart will be helpful.
- An attention to detail is always required in nursing as these errors can negatively affect the well being of your patient.
- Being organized will also be helpful due to the clerical aspect of school nursing.
- Communication skills are essential, especially an ability to communicate easily with children.
There are two main educational requirements for being a good school nurse practitioner:
- Firstly you must complete the training required to become a registered nurse. This is done through a nursing school or a school that offers nursing programs. The school must be accredited.
- In addition you should have training in pediatrics as you will be required to work with children on a daily basis. Children are defined as individuals younger than 18 years of age.
Children and adolescents need to be related to in a different way to adults. They cannot be treated in the same way as you would an elderly member of society or a young adult. Consequently it is generally in your best interests to do pediatric training.
The license you require to be a school nurse is an RN license. This license can be obtained by completing your RN training and then applying for licensure through your state board of nursing. You will have to wait for confirmation from your state board, but once you receive it you will be able to go ahead and apply for an exam date with Pearson VUE, the company responsible for administering the NCLEX-RN examination, the national exam for RN nurses. Once your state board of nursing receives confirmation that you passed the exam, you will be licensed. This license will, in many states, need to be renewed periodically. Make sure that you know what the renewal specifications are for your particular state in order to continue practicing uninterrupted.
How To Become A School Nurse Practitioner
Training, Advancement And Other Qualifications
To be a successful nurse practitioner you will need to have training as a pediatric nurse. This is not always a requirement but, as there are no training programs specifically for school nurses, it is the best way to gain the knowledge you need to treat children. These programs will equip you to perform physical exams on children, diagnose injuries and many common illnesses in children, administer treatment to children, refer children to other healthcare professionals when necessary, immunize children, and manage certain conditions such as diabetes, asthma, eczema and allergies, that are common in children. Consequently, after becoming an RN, additional postgraduate training in pediatric nursing is highly recommended and in some cases it is even a non-negotiable requirement for employment. In addition you can focus your continuing education units on improving your skills in nursing children.
Source An Accredited Education Program
It is extremely important that both the program that you attend to complete your initial RN training as well as the program that you attend to become a pediatric nurse must be accredited by the appropriate bodies. If they are not you will:
- Waste your time as you will need to begin a new program from scratch
- Waste your money as the program will not have provided you with the qualification you paid for
Current nurses working in schools are a good place to start your search for an accredited program as they will have first-hand knowledge of the accredited programs in your area. In addition your state board of nursing will gladly point you in the direction of the best accredited nursing programs that will set you on track to becoming a school nurse fractioned.
Earn Your Associate’s Degree
Although you will need to earn at least a bachelor’s degree in order to get the pediatric qualification needed to be a school nurse practitioner, generally speaking you have to work up to this qualification. Earning your associate’s degree is a sensible place to begin your journey to becoming a school nurse. There are a number of schools across the country that offer associate’s degrees in nursing, make a list of the ones in your area and remove those that do not meet your criteria. Apply to at least three of the schools on your shortlist to improve your chances of being accepted and then choose schools from among those that respond positively. Completing the program by doing all of the clinical and theoretical coursework required will earn you an associate’s degree.
Obtain Your Licensure
There are no specific additional licenses involved in becoming a school nurse practitioner, but it is suggested that, in order to improve your chances of employment, and in order to make a significant difference to your resume, you should pursue certification as a pediatric nurse. Pediatric nurses work with children, as do school nurses, so this qualification will give you valuable insight and knowledge that will allow you to perform your job better. The American Nurses Credential Center offers a PNP-BC (pediatric nurse practitioner-board certified) credential. Although this is far from being a requirement, it will make your job far easier and in addition will allow you to work in pediatric health care settings in many different facilities, expanding your job opportunities and introducing you to other line of work that may be more appropriate.
Online/Distance Education Programs
There are a number of online education programs that are available for nurses interested in entering a school nurse program, or a pediatric practitioner program. These include:
502 E. Boone Ave.
Spokane, WA 99258
University of Cincinnati
3110 Vine St.
Cincinnati, Ohio 45221
3001 Market St., Suite 300
Philadelphia, PA 19104
However it must be noted that your entire training regime cannot be completed online. This is because the inevitable clinical aspect of your coursework simply cannot be completed in an online environment and must, instead, be completed at an actual health care facility. Make sure that you account for this when selecting an online school. In addition you need to ensure that the online school you enroll in is, in fact, accredited appropriately.
The nursing profession is one that is benefiting greatly from the constant increases and stability of the health care industry in this country. To be specific, a total growth of 22% is expected from the year 2008 to the year 2018. This is far higher than the average growth rate for most other industries and professions right across the board. In addition a nurse who would like to work in schools can benefit from the fact that more schools are being built, meaning that more school nurses will be needed to fill the vacancies. In addition our population is always on the increase, which means that each and every year there are more and more children who need to go to school and, consequently, more and more jobs for school nurse practitioner who will need to care for them.
In this line of work you can expect to earn anything from $61,500 to $93,420 a year. If you factor in the potential of a bonus between $0.00 and $7,096 as well as the potential for profit sharing of $511 to $19,574, your total pay could be as much as $63,924 – $100,943. Some cities are better to work in than others in terms of pay. It is suggested that, if possible, you stick to the following cities as they are well known for paying high salaries to school nurses:
- Washington, District of Columbia
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Boston, Massachusetts
- New York, New York
- Indianapolis, Indiana
- Orlando, Florida
- Columbus, Ohio
- Denver, Colorado
- Nashville, Tennessee
The salary that you earn may depend on the school or government that employs you and to a certain degree your gender may play a role.
Many nurses enter this profession because they love children. However you need to remember that there are two aspects to any nursing profession, namely that you have to love the profession and you have to be good at what you do. If you are not, for example, able to easily communicate with children, this may not in fact be the best line of work for you to become involved in. On the other hand if you are extremely good with children, but cannot stand them on a personal level, you should not become a school nurse practitioner either.