As a child, going to the school's nurse was all the rage. We had a middle-aged woman who smelled like vanilla and always took the utmost care of the students who visited her. She always had cough drops in her pockets when needed and always had an extra ice pack in the freezer if a child needed it. She seemed prepared no matter the case.
Now, as an adult, I commend school nurses even more. Being able to care for that many children every year is no easy task — especially when it's hard to tell if a child is seriously sick or if they just want to skip out on class.
It depends on the country or state, but most school nurses need a bachelor's degree, a registered nurse license, and a certain amount of clinical hours before being able to apply for the job as a school nurse. But what exactly is a school nurse able to do?
Parents and students would be surprised by how much effort nurses put into their upset or sick students, and the school that educates them. They're not just waiting around all day for a child to come in with a headache; they have meds to administer, programs to overview, and campaigns to plan. School nurses are the unsung heroes that seem to get forgotten about. And today, we're going to look at what exactly a school nurse is able to do while on the job.
20 Urinary Catheterization
Every body comes in different shapes and sizes, and sometimes, there are a few bumps in the road as far as health is concerned. Those students who need a urinary catheter are able to go to the school nurse when they need help or have any concerns. Those with a urinary catheter have a thin tube that drains urine from their bladder (instead of going to the stall when the need to). There are a few reasons why a person may need a urinary catheter, and one of those is extreme types of diabetes. As S. Mommy notes, some schools can monitor this and assist a student when they need to drain their tube into the toilet.
19 Administer An EpiPen
An EpiPen is needed for students who have severe allergies. Say a child is allergic to something common like bees or peanut butter; having an extra EpiPen at the school is necessary for their own safety. Of course, not everyone is "allowed" to administer an EpiPen and they can be rather expensive. Depending on the state, having an EpiPen on file with the school nurse is the best instance in case of an emergency. If something did happen to your child, the teacher would call the nurse who would rush to administer the injection.
In 2015, New Jersey even made it a law to have EpiPens accessible to any student who needed one in all public and private schools.
18 Classroom Visits
Depending on the state, some school nurses are able to check in on their students who visit them often. You know how policemen are able to do welfare checks on someone if called in, school nurses can kind of do the same thing in the school. Whether that's popping in a class to see their student learn or keeping an eye on them at recess, a school nurse seems to have eyes everywhere. This, of course, has to make parents feel at ease knowing their children are always being taken care of. It's also reassuring to know that school nurses have our kids' health on their minds whether they're in the nurse's office or not.
17 Address Obstacles On The Home Front
There are multiple issues that can happen on the home front that can affect a child at school. If a teacher notices anything physical or hazardous at home, they may feel so inclined to tell the school nurse who may confront the family of the student. As told on Daily Nurse, a nurse explained, "I have kids who want to be in school, but their parents have mental/emotional or physical issues that keep them from supporting their child. For example, I put in a NARCAN program in the school to get all our nurses and PE teachers trained to use the meds. I am working on district-wide strategies to address the impact of stress and traumatic events on the minds of our students."
16 Attend Out-Of-State Field Trips
Now that I think about it, I suppose we did have a school nurse with us on our out-of-state senior trip – even a day trip to see the White House in Washington DC. Depending on the state, it's a law that a school nurse must be in attendance on an out-of-state field trip, not to mention be able to perform their duties in the state they're going to. "Some nurses may already have a multistate license, while others need to request and receive permission from the state they will be visiting," a nurse told Magnus Health. As the nurse, it's important to know about these small things before field trips are planned.
15 Present Pregnancy Tests
When people think of the school nurse, they typically think of an elementary school. However, nurses are just as important in middle and high schools. It's in high school and middle school where students start dabbling in certain behaviors and could find themselves in a precarious situation. As the Telegraph notes, in the UK, schools began setting up clinics to test and screen their students. Whether it's a pregnancy test or the morning-after pill, it appears some schools are able to help out their students when they find themselves trapped. Whether the nurse has a legal obligation to alert the student's parents is another decision entirely.
14 Certain Screenings
There comes an age where students begin testing the waters; they may partake in activities that may seem too adult or perhaps just what they see other students doing. Regardless, when they find themselves in a tricky situation, they may not know where to turn if they're too afraid of their parents. They may not be too comfortable calling the family doctor or going to the nearest pharmacy; instead, some school nurses are able to help them in these times. Taking the utmost care and confidentiality, some are able to test for different infections one may, unfortunately, receive when not being careful.
13 Give The Flu Shot
Depending on the state, a nurse can now administer flu shots. Now, a school cannot force its students to get the flu shot (not every parent is on the vaccine bandwagon), but some schools have the ability to administer them come flu season, which is actually quite impressive. It makes it much easier for a parent to plan their child's flu shot instead of planning through their busy doctor. Nevertheless, Albuquerque Public Schools explains how they're able to give their students the flu shot thanks to School Kids Influenza Immunization Project (SKIIP). This means there's no co-pay and no stuffy doctor's office.
12 Assess Your BMI
Again, depending on the state or school district, some nurses are able to assess a student's body mass index (or, BMI). Knowing your own BMI can be helpful in terms of seeing where you're at compared to other students your age. Since obesity has been on the rise for quite some time, some school nurses find it necessary to access a student's BMI so they can take the proper measurements to either get healthier or stay on the right track; however, there are some administrators and parents who think it's discouraging for a child to learn their BMI. Being told they're subpar in their health could hurt them in a variety of ways.
11 Perform Tests To Detect Use
I don't know about you, but color me surprised! I never thought school nurses would be able to administer such tests, mainly because why would a school need to know this type of information about a student? In these cases, wouldn't the school nurse or teacher reach out to a parent if they thought their child was dabbling in darker behavior? Nevertheless, there are some school districts that allow their school nurses to administer these tests — especially when it comes to school athletics. There are mixes of things young athletes may take in order to perform better than a rival, which is why this may be important when push comes to shove.
10 Sports Physicals
Athletics are a huge part of some kids' lives. Depending on the chosen sport, it's a great way to meet friends, stay active, be healthy, and learn a deeper sense of morality. Before joining a league or school sports team, however, the student athlete needs to undergo a school physical. Doing so ensures that the student is healthy enough to not only partake in these sports, but that they're keeping others safe as well. Doing these annual physicals is also a great way for parents to see any changes or concerns in their child's health. For instance, I found out I had a heart murmur while at a physical, which I probably wouldn't have known otherwise!
Instead of a parent calling their doctor and trying to fit in time to see them, try calling the school nurse.
9 Help Students Quit Their Vices
As much as we know that certain things are cancerous or dangerous, kids sometimes walk right into these bad habits. It could be because of the crowd they're hanging out with or simply out of curiosity; nevertheless, teens aren't always going to lead a straight-edged life. Thankfully, most school nurses can assist kids and teens in a healthier direction by helping them quit their bad habits. Whether it's dietary information or a good book to read to scare a teen straight, nurses are there to help — which I think many students forget at times. They're not just there to give you Advil when you have a headache, nurses are there to ensure your wellbeing.
8 Coordinate Medical Care With Parents
Although every parent wants a healthy child, bumps and rashes pop up from time to time. Or sometimes it's a more serious matter where the school nurse needs to be in contact with the child's doctor at a nearby hospital. Whatever the case, a school nurse is able to coordinate with a child's life outside of school. According to a nurse at Daily Nurse, "It’s also working with parents to coordinate medical care. For example, rashes. If a student comes in with a rash, it may need clearance from a doctor before we can get that student back to school." Essentially, a nurse is trying everything they can to get that student back to class, safe and sound.
7 Creates Emergency Routines
As a student (and even as an adult!), I never thought that the school nurse helped the school create routines in emergency situations. Schools these days aren't as safe as they were in the past, and whether it's from the weather or a person in the school, creating routines students and teachers have to follow in these emergency situations is imperative. As AAP Publications puts it, "The school nurse provides leadership for the provision of health services. As the health care expert within the school, the school nurse assesses the overall system of care and develops a plan for ensuring that health needs are met." The site continues saying that they're in charge of communication and documentation of students' health information in these cases.
6 Monitors Environmental Safeness
Not only do school nurses need to worry about the physical wellbeing of their students (or patients, really), they need to think about the environmental factors on the school grounds, as well. It's not just the teachers or principal who thinks about environmental safety, it's the nurses, as well. "The school nurse provides for the safety of the environment by participating in environmental safety monitoring (playgrounds, indoor air quality, and potential hazards)," AAP Publications notes. Taking a walk around the school and keeping an eye on the students during downtime is just another part of a nurse's duty to create a safer school zone.
5 Assess Learning Disabilities
I never knew I had an issue with learning until I hit middle school. I understood all the information being given and all the books we had to read, but there were times where I wish I had more time to focus on what I was learning. A school nurse helped get me in different classes to ensure I learned at a pace that was beneficial for me. They can also help students who struggle with Dyslexia, language processing, speech issues, visual perceptions, ADHD, and more. If a student is ever feeling off or out of their league, try seeing a nurse to see if they can help access the situation.
4 Create A Healthy Learning Environment
According to RN to BSN, "K12 nurses often work with faculty and staff to encourage and ensure a healthy learning environment by providing adults with resources on how to keep themselves healthy and set good examples." As you can see, it's not just the administrators or teachers who are planning a healthy learning environment for their students, it's the school nurses, as well. Ensuring that kids aren't picking on each other, teachers having the right mindset, and creating a safe environment is just another thing on a nurse's checklist. As we can see, a nurse's job doesn't begin and end in their office — it's throughout the school, no matter the season.
3 Mental Health Resources
Nurses aren't therapists. This is why most schools have a school nurse and a licensed therapist or counselor in their schools. As humans, we go through different emotions and paths in life, which can make it hard to cope. When a nurse feels a child or teen may need someone to talk to, they can refer them to a list of specialists in the area or connect them with a professional within the school. Sometimes a student may feel weird going to the school therapist, or may not know how to start a conversation with a counselor, which is great when a common person (a school nurse) can connect the two.
2 Looks Over What The Cafeteria Puts Out
Surprise! School nurses don't just stay locked in their office all day, addressing the ales of sick kiddos; they also keep an eye on the nutrients being served in the cafeteria. As RN to BSN explains, "School nurses can play an integral role in the development of a school’s lunch program. They also often maintain and file a list of your students’ allergens." If you notice, many school lunchrooms have a specific place for those with nut or milk allergies can sit, just in case they need to take extreme precautions. School nurses also have a say in the kinds of foods served at their school, and which student is allergic to what in case of an emergency.
1 Works Hand-In-Hand With The P.E. Department
As we've learned from this article, a school nurse has their hands in just about everything within the school. From assisting with learning disorders to implementing nutritional programs to helping students in sticky situations, school nurses do it all! That being said, some districts also have their school nurses connect with their PE department. As RN to BSN says, "Nurses may also work with a school’s athletic department to develop a healthy PE program for students." Whether it's mental or physical, a school nurse is there to ensure the wellbeing of a child when mom and dad aren't around. Now that's something to feel good about.